Newport police slavery raids prompted by man missing for 13 years
7:31pm Monday 23rd September 2013 in News
POLICE were tonight digging up a Newport farm in search of a body as part of a investigation into slavery.
Four people were arrested after a team of more than 100 officers raided three locations today, suspecting people were being kept in poor conditions in Marshfield and forced to work for no pay.
Officers, including armed police, also executed search warrants at a site in Cardiff and in Penhow in Monmouthshire as part of Operation Imperial.
An Eastern European man was taken from the horse farm in Peterstone, Marshfield, yesterday and taken to hospital. He was given humanitarian aid by the Red Cross
The six-month operation was sparked when Darrell Simester, 43, was discovered in a rundown caravan in Peterstone earlier this year and claimed he was kept as a slave by travellers.
His family, who received an anonymous tip-off regarding his whereabouts, had spent an agonising 13 years without him after he went missing on holiday in Porthcawl.
Mr Simester used to make phone calls to them, but never give his location, until 2008 when they mysteriously stopped.
Following a tip-off, Mr Simester was located in Peterstone.
He was starving, wearing dirty, torn clothes and had teeth missing.
Mr Simester, from Kidderminster alleged he was treated like a slave by his masters, who lured him in by offering him a job.
He claimed he was forced to work 12 hours a day and was never given a day off or allowed to visit a doctor, but his fear of repercussions stopped him from running away.
A neighbouring pensioner who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals said he had seen Mr Simester working at the Marshfield yard before he was rescued earlier this year.
He described him as a malnourished looking man: “The only time I saw him was when he was moving the horses.
“He looked a lot older than he was. Most people go to the local pub but I never saw him on the road at all, apart from moving the horses.
“I was amazed when I went over this morning and saw all those police.
“I didn’t think the force had so many police available.”
Police raided the site under the Slavery and Servitude from the Criminal Law Act 1977 and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and imposed a 400-metre wide cordon around the Cariad Farm, with no-one able to enter or leave without permission. They expect to be on site for at least three days.
Specialist forensic excavators measured a grassy bank on the farm, where they were given information a person may be buried, before beginning excavating yesterday.
A helicopter hovered overhead in the morning while police dogs and around ten police vans were on site.
Gwent Police is working with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), other forces, the UK Human Trafficking Centre, the RSPCA and the Red Cross.
The four people arrested, a 66 year old man and a 42 year old from Marshfield, a 36 year old man from Cardiff and a 42 year old woman from Penhow, Monmouthshire area, are in police custody and being questioned.
A woman living on the same road, the B4239, said: “It’s a very isolated place. I saw the police officers. We’ve always felt so safe for the last eight years. It’s a bit scary.”
Another woman, who owns the yard neighbouring that being searched by police, said she didn’t know why police were investigating her neighbours, saying: “They’re my friends - they’re all lovely. They’ve got horses, I’ve known them for years.”
Gwent Police Chief Inspector Huw Nicholas held a press conference this afternoon. He said: “Excavations have started. We plan to be on site for three days. We could extend that longer, depending on what we find.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Griffiths, leading the investigation, said: “In addition to the suspected offences in relation to Slavery and Servitude, Gwent Police is also acting on intelligence which suggests that the body of an unknown person may be buried at the Marshfield site. As such specially trained officers, equipment and a forensic archaeologist have been deployed to investigate this.
“Because of the scale of the investigation we are fully aware the operation has caused disruption to other residents, especially in the Marshfield area, and we thank them for their continued co-operation and understanding.”
He added: “The offences that are being investigated are extremely serious and we would urge anyone with any information which could assist the team to contact Gwent Police on 101 quoting log 66 23/09/13. Alternatively if someone has information and would rather not pass this directly to the Police then I would urge them to contact Crimestoppers, which is independent of the Police and guarantees complete anonymity, on 0800 555 111.”
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