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  1. ITV Report

Family who ran slavery ring jailed for total of almost 80 years

A family who kept 18 men as slaves for more than two decades have been jailed for a total of nearly 80 years.

The Rooney clan targeted the vulnerable and homeless forcing them to work for little or no wages and live in squalid caravans with no water or toilets.

While they lived a life of luxury blowing cash on holidays to Barbados, Mexico and Australia, fast cars, Rolex watches, spa days and plastic surgery.

They even used their ill-gotten gains to pay for a Manchester United football school.

One captive, who was held for 26 years, was ordered to dig his own grave and told "that's where you're going" if he didn't sign a bogus contract.

He said he was also beaten with a rake when he overslept and suffered broken teeth when a concrete slab was thrown in his face.

The squalid conditions the men were forced to live in. Credit: Lincolnshire Police

The heartless gang would go out looking for victims on the streets or in homeless shelters, offering them food or accommodation to lure them back to traveller sites in Lincolnshire.

Once there the men, who often had learning disabilities or drug or alcohol addictions, were forced to carry out manual labour for hours on end.

They were beaten and starved or fed scraps from the family's left overs.

The Rooneys even took over their bank accounts so they were financially trapped and under their total control.

In total, 18 men aged between 18 and 63 were forced to work at sites in Drinsey Nook and Washingborough, or for the Rooneys' business, repairing properties and tarmacking drives.

Most of the victims told how they were never given safety equipment or the right clothing.

The more lavish way the Rooneys lived. Credit: Lincolnshire Police

The gang also targeted elderly homeowners, coercing them into signing over properties to them which were then sold on for profit - one for £250,000.

One of the householders ended up dying without his family knowing, and it was only when they were contacted by police that they discovered they had missed his funeral.

The Rooneys reign of terror finally ended when police raided their sites in 2014.

Sentencing them, Judge Timothy Spencer QC said: "You preyed on men fallen on hard times, homeless, alcoholic, with mental health problems; vulnerable and easy to manipulate.

"Your victims reached a position where they were cowed into submission. They knew resistance was futile.

"When you assaulted your victims you knew they would offer no resistance at all. These crimes were chilling in their mercilessness."

How the family are all related. Credit: Lincolnshire Police

The family were convicted in four separate trials at Nottingham Crown Court.

Head of the family Martin Rooney Senior, 57, was sentenced to 10 years and nine months.

While his twin sons Patrick and John, 31, were each jailed for 15 years.

Martin Snr's wife Bridget, 55, who helped starve the workers to force their submission, was jailed for seven years.

The couple's other son Martin Junior, 23, was jailed for six years and nine months.

Six others family members were also sentenced for their part in the slavery ring.

The sentences in full:

  • Martin Rooney, 57, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 10 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and unlawful wounding
  • John Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, Lincolnshire - Jailed for 15 years and six months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation and two counts of theft
  • Patrick Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 15 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, fraud by abuse of position, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and two counts of theft
  • Bridget Rooney, 55, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for seven years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Martin Rooney, 23, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for six years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • John Rooney, 53, of Chantry Croft, Pontefract, Yorkshire - Jailed for five years and 10 months for two counts of conspiring to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Peter Doran, 36, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Gerard Rooney, 46, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Lawrence Rooney, 47, currently in prison - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Patrick Rooney, 54, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire - Two year suspended sentence for converting criminal property
  • Martin Rooney, 35, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield - 12 month suspended sentence for conspiracy to defraud, two counts of converting criminal property