The victim of a modern slavery gang was ordered to dig his own grave and told “that’s where you’re going” if he did not sign a bogus work contract. He was kept a “captive” by members of the Rooney family on a Lincolnshire traveller site and forced to work 12-hour days, seven-days-a-week for 26 years.
In an emotional account of his life, the man’s sister told how he was beaten with a rake when he overslept, had his teeth smashed with a concrete slab and had been left “psychologically damaged” by his dreadful ordeal.
Speaking anonymously, the woman told how her brother was first approached by one of the gang “on a seafront bench” and offered work. Candidly, she told how her sibling had developed a drug habit and become homeless, losing contact with his own family.
In an audio tape of her interview released by Lincolnshire Police, she said: “They were possibly watching him in the soup kitchens in the homeless centres. “Because that’s what they do to try and establish people that won’t be missed.
“He worked very, very long hours and he certainly had a very hard life. “From my understanding, it was for very little pay or no pay and I believe he was actually living in very squalid conditions and had lived in a stable for some part of his captivity.”
On Friday, the full story emerged of how 11 members of the Rooney gang were convicted of running a modern slavery ring, which kept 18 men in “truly shocking” conditions. While their victims were forced into a life of hard labour, the family – convicted of slavery and fraud charges at Nottingham Crown Court – lived a life of luxury, earned off the backs of their workers.
Telling of her brother’s ordeal at the gang’s hands, the victim’s sister said: “He was asked to sign a contract by John Rooney – a contract would have been out of his understanding. “And John Rooney said to him, ‘you’re going to work for me for the rest of your life’.
“My brother replied ‘oh, I don’t know about that’. “Prior to that conversation, John Rooney had actually made him dig a hole. “And my brother said to him ‘how much further do you want me to dig down?’
“And he (John) said ‘keep digging’ and at the end of the conversation said to him ‘if you don’t sign this contract, that’s where you’re going, in that hole’.
“We think he was captured for up to 26 years.” Giving an account of another conversation with her brother: “I said ‘how did you loose your front teeth because you used to have nice teeth when you were young’.
“He looked at me and he said ‘oh concrete done that’, and I said ‘what do you mean?’
“And he said ‘oh, well John threw a slab at me one day, and it hit me in the mouth’.
“That is the way that you get these people to become so subservient to them.” She added: “The brother we have back is certainly not the one that left us.
“I think the whole family feel a sense of guilt because had we had known this is what was happening to this poor lad, then would we have done things differently.”