Essex

Clacton car wash worker 'forced to work for free'

Washing a car Image copyright Justin Sullivan/Getty
Image caption One witness in the Leshi trial said he washed up to 400 cars a day

A former car wash worker was forced to work for free, share a house with a dozen people and survive on just £10 for food, a court heard.

Nicolai Candelea told Chelmsford Crown Court that he came to the UK from Romania after seeing a post on Facebook for work and accommodation.

He worked for Albanian brothers Saimir and Benard Leshi, and their relative Adriatik Leshi, in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, for a week but never got paid.

All three deny modern slavery offences.

Speaking via an interpreter, he said he was expecting to go to Chesterfield, Derbyshire, but was dropped off in Wellesley Road, Clacton, instead.

He told the court that the accommodation provided by the trio was a filthy bungalow that "should have been demolished".

There was just one toilet, shared by as many as 13 people, and the only available facility for washing was a sink.

'An exaggeration'

The jury heard that as soon as Mr Candelea arrived in Essex, his ID was taken away and when he asked for it back, he was sworn at and told not to go to the police.

He worked at the car wash every day from 08:00 GMT until 19:30 GMT, and said he had to "beg" the Leshis for even a five-minute break, the court heard.

"Another week there and I would have fallen off my feet," he said.

Mr Candelea claimed that he and other workers would wash about 400 cars a week, which defence barrister Mathew Dance said was "an exaggeration".

He also suggested that Mr Candelea was not paid because his wages went towards the cost of his travel to the UK - something Mr Candelea admitted he had agreed to.

The trial of Saimir, 29, of Coronation Road; Benard, 27, of Wellesley Road; and Adriatik, 43, of Key Road; all in Clacton, continues.

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