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UK man admits to enslaving worker, making him live in garden shed for 40 years without light, heating

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This is the shed that Peter Swailes, 56, kept a worker in for some 40 years. Investigating officers from the UK authorities found a soiled duvet and no working source of light or heating in the shed, noting that the family's dog had far better living quarters. GLAA/Vimeo
This is the shed that Peter Swailes, 56, kept a worker in for some 40 years. Investigating officers from the UK authorities found a soiled duvet and no working source of light or heating in the shed, noting that the family's dog had far better living quarters. GLAA/Vimeo
  • A UK man has pleaded guilty to enslaving a worker for 40 years.
  • Peter Swailes, 56, admitted to keeping a man in an unlit garden shed without heating for decades.
  • The man was forced to work for Swailes, and was paid around $13.70 (around R210) a day for his work.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A man in England admitted to enslaving a worker in a tiny shed without light or heating for 40 years. 

Peter Swailes, 56, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to keeping a man in a wooden shed in his garden for four decades, according to a press release from the UK's Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority

According to the press release, Swailes was arrested in October 2018, after the police searched a trailer park in Carlisle, northwest England. Both Swailes and his 81-year-old father, also named Peter Swailes, were accused at the time of offenses under the UK's Modern Slavery Act. However, the older Swailes died in September 2021 before the trial began, as per the BBC

The Evening Standard reported that authorities rescued the enslaved man from the shed after an anonymous tip-off. 

The authorities found the man, then 58, in a dark shed without lights or a heating source. GLAA officers said the shed was "in complete darkness" when they went to rescue the man.

The enslaved worker, who is now in his 60s, told UK law enforcement he spent his days doing painting and slating work on farms for the two Swailes men. 

Officers from the GLAA noted as well that another shed, where the Swailes family dog slept in, was "in a far better state" than the quarters provided for the worker. 

Inside the shed from on Vimeo.

The rescued worker is now living in government-supported accommodation, as per the GLAA. 

"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," said investigating office Martin Plimmer.

"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. 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," Plimmer added.

"We are sadly all too aware of the fact that he 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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