Devon

Plymouth slavery trial: Worker 'beaten with baseball bat'

Slavery raid
Image caption The raids in September involved staff from the National Crime Agency

Eastern Europeans who were allegedly trafficked to the UK and forced into labour were told they would be killed if they tried to escape, a court heard.

One man needed hospital treatment after being beaten with a baseball bat and others were punched if they were "rude", Plymouth Crown Court was told.

The victims were brought to Plymouth from the Czech Republic.

Five defendants deny conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation.

The court heard how victim Ladislav Chvojka told police he had to go to Derriford Hospital with a back injury after defendant Petr Tancos hit him with a baseball bat.

'Get a beating'

Malcolm Galloway, prosecuting, told the court how another victim, Miroslav Ritter, told police he was threatened by Mr Tancos.

Mr Galloway said: "He was threatened by Petr that if he left him for someone else, like a woman, he would find him, beat him up and kill him.

"Petr never hit him, but he would use threatening language. He was told if he did something at work to lose his job he would get it.

"He took that to mean he would get a beating."

The defendants are:

  • Ruzena Tancosova, 34, of Union Street - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and acting as a gangmaster
  • Petr Tancos, 35, of Ford Park Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Nela Dzurkova, 26, of Ford Park Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation
  • Martin Tancos, 35, of Saltash Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation and acting as a gangmaster
  • Katerina Kurejova, 35, of Saltash Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation

The jury was told when Mr Ritter worked at St Merryn Meats, manager William McLaren described him as a good worker, but it was noted he was always hungry, had poor hygiene habits and always turned up for work in the same clothes.

The court has heard how victim Josef Bukovinsky, aged 31, lived at Beaumont Road in Plymouth and was sold to Ruzena Tancosova.

'Like a servant'

Mr Bukovinsky told the court: "They said I would have a much better life because I would work and I would have a roof over my head.

"I thought it would be a good start and change for myself".

He said he and five other men shared a room at the house, with three on the floor and two in a single bed.

"We slept like sardines next to each other," he said.

On an average day, Mr Bukovinsky said he would have to get up at 07:00 before waking Ms Tancosova's children and preparing breakfast for them.

"Then I was like a servant, I had to clean the whole house. I had to do it every day," he told the court.

The trial continues.

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