Beds, Herts & Bucks

Connors family trial: Angler 'helped pursued captive'

An angler in Bedfordshire helped a man escaping from a traveller family to call the police, a court has heard.

Peter Hoffman told Luton Crown Court the stranger he met on a Grand Union Canal bank near Leighton Buzzard in August 2009, claimed he was a captive.

The man then spoke to a woman police officer on the angler's mobile phone.

Tommy Connors Senior and three of his sons, Tommy, 27, James, 25, Patrick, 21, are on trial for a second time and deny exploiting captive workers.

All four deny three counts of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and three of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced labour.

Mr Hoffman said he first saw the man running across fields a mile-and-a-half away.

"He had been running for quite a while and he was agitated. He only had shoes and trousers on," he said.

"He told me he was being chased by four people and I phoned the police. I could see in the distance three or four men."

'Seemed petrified'

The angler handed the man the phone so he could speak directly to the police and he was told officers would be arriving within half an hour

Mr Hoffman said as the other men drew closer he shouted out to them that he had called the police and they "stopped".

He said the man who had now joined him seemed "petrified".

A woman police officer later told the court that when she spoke to the man with Mr Hoffman he claimed he was being held against his will and forced to work on a nearby caravan site.

He said he had escaped but was worried about other men back at the site.

The offences that the four deny are alleged to have taken place between 6 April 2010 and 11 September 2011 and involved four victims. who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The father and his sons are accused of making large amounts of money by holding vulnerable men in captivity and making them work for nothing.

The trial continues.

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