Man kept in freezing dirty shed for 40 years with no lights or heating

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The victim, who now is in his 60s, was traumatised after the harrowing ordeal. Peter Swailes, 56, and his 80-year-old father, also called Peter Swailes, were charged last year after an investigation uncovered their grim reign of menace.

Both men previously pleaded not guilty to conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of an individual between 2015 and 2019 with a view to him being exploited. The older defendant died last year shortly before standing trial.

But Swailes Junior yesterday pleaded guilty to the modern slavery offence at Carlisle Crown Court.

He will be sentenced next month, Manchester Evening News reports. 

The court heard Swailes kept the victim in a small green wooden shed at Hadrian’s Caravan Park near Carlisle, Cumbria, keeping him effectively “as a slave”.

Senior investigating officer Martin Plimmer said: “First and foremost in my mind at this time though is the victim. Let’s remember that he has been exploited for all his adult life up until just a few years ago,” Senior Investigating Officer Martin Plimmer said.

“He is now in his early 60s. This is something that even now I struggle to comprehend.

“For four decades, he was in effect kept as a slave.”

The investigation by Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and National Crime Agency (NCA), which lasted three years, carried out a search warrant at the caravan park in October 2018.

Peter Swailes Senior was arrested there in his static caravan on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

At the time of his arrest he was heard to say: “not all this slavery thing again”.

Officers found the victim in the six-foot shed, which had a soiled duvet on the floor and a metered television. They knocked on the door and were greeted by the victim who appeared dishevelled and agitated.

He told officers he had lived there for 40 years.

The victim then asked if he could have a wash, indicating that he washed in a kitchen sink in a building next to his shed, the GLLA said.

The authority says the shed was in a “poor” condition with just one window which could not be fully closed. It was in complete darkness when the doors were shut.

An old electric heater with damaged wiring was discarded in the corner of the shed, and there was no other heating inside, they said.

By contrast, officers noted that another shed on site used for the family dog to sleep in was in a far better state, the GLLA say.

During an interview with investigators, the victim said he worked on farms.

He described painting, slating and tarmacking and said he was paid as little as £10 per day.

As the investigation continued, officers suspected Swailes’ son of the same offences.

Swailes Junior was arrested at the same site by the GLAA in April 2019 and offered no comment during a police interview.

Both men were subsequently charged with conspiracy to organise the travel of an individual with a view to exploiting them, contrary to Section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

However Swailes Senior died in 2021, aged 81, shortly before standing trial.

The victim was accepted into the government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) on the day he was rescued and continues to receive specialist support.

He lives in supported accommodation outside of Cumbria.

Swailes Junior, from Carlisle, will appear at sentencing on February 4. He has been released on bail.

GLAA senior investigating officer Plimmer continued: “This has been a really harrowing investigation.

“In all my years in law enforcement, I have never known a modern slavery case where the exploitation has taken place over such a long period of time.

“It is pleasing to see that Swailes has finally done the right thing and pleaded guilty. I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and professionalism of my investigators in dealing with what has been a very complex investigation, one that has thrown up numerous challenges along the way.

“We are sadly all too aware of the fact that [the victim] will be traumatised by his experience for the rest of his life.

“I am committed to ensuring he continues to have the regular, consistent support he needs which allows him to lead as normal a life as he can in the circumstances.”

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