Man 'kept as a slave for 26 years' told police the work improved his life

Man 'kept as a slave for 26 years' told police the work improved his life

A homeless man who said he was kept as a slave for 26 years in Wales has admitted telling police that working for a group of travellers "improved his life".

Four members of the Connors family, from south Wales, are on trial at Cardiff Crown Court accused of forced labour charges.

Patrick Joseph Connors, 59, his two sons Patrick Dean Connors and William Connors - who all live in Rumney - as well as son-in-law Lee Christopher Carbis all deny the charges.

The prosecution's case is that Scottish man Michael Hughes was made to work gruelling 16-hour days for Connors senior's tarmacking business for just £5 and was regularly beaten if the work was not carried out to a good standard.

The 46-year-old has also told a jury that he was made to sleep in a tiny rotten shed as well as having to wash himself with a bucket of cold water.

But on day three of the case, during cross examination, Mr Hughes admitted his boss drove him to a doctor after coming down with pneumonia and later visited him hospital - buying him chocolates and magazines.

Defence barrister James Doyle also questioned the witness about a police interview - in which he told officers: "I can earn a little money and I didn't have to come back to the scene I came from. Work improved my life."

Mr Hughes agreed he had told police that - as well as saying he had attended Connors' 40th birthday bash as well as his daughter's wedding.

Jurors were told that during his time with the Connors, the former drug user had dated a police worker's daughter for two years in the noughties.

Previously the trial has heard Mr Hughes did not contact police about his alleged ordeal until after seeing a TV news report about slave labour in 2013.

The witness also told defence barrister Mr Doyle he had a top-up mobile phone for 10 years, smoked cannabis and took ecstasy during nights out with friends and had a good relationship with young children in the Connors family.

He added: "Yeah I used to buy them chocolates."

But Mr Hughes - who came to Wales aged 18 in 1988 seeking a better life - insisted he was telling the telling the truth about the beatings he had as well as being forced to live in squalor.

When asked whether he had never lived in a shed or a ramshackle hut, the witness replied: "I did."

On Wednesday, Mr Hughes told the court he had been hunted down by Connors senior after fleeing back to Aberdeen before being beaten up.

And he also said prison was a "holiday camp" when compared with his time with the Connors.

He said: "I had to go back down to Wales when I was released. Paddy (Connors senior) told me because he would come after me again."

The Crown alleges that a second man in the case - known as Mr K - was also kidnapped and attacked.

All four defendants deny one count of requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour between 2010 and 2013.

Connors senior has also pleaded not guilty to eight counts of causing actual bodily harm, four of kidnap and one of conspiracy to kidnap. The dates for those alleged offences range between 1990 and 2012.

Elder son Patrick Dean Connors denies kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap.

William Connors has pleaded not guilty to causing actual bodily harm on a man between 2009 and 2013.

Carbis, of Trowbridge, also denies one count of kidnap between 2001 and 2002.

The case, which is expected to last six weeks, continues.

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