Man kept as slave in shed for 40 years on Cumbria caravan park 3 months ago

Man kept as slave in shed for 40 years on Cumbria caravan park

The man was 'exploited' for all of his adult life and slept in a shed worse than the accommodation used by the family dog

A man was kept prisoner in a six-foot shed in a caravan park for more than 40 years and paid just £10 a day in a "really harrowing" case of human slavery.


Peter Swailes kept a vulnerable worker in a green shed in conditions worse than those provided to the family’s dog, investigators from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) found.

The victim, who has not been identified, was rescued in October 2018, after a tip-off to a confidential line. He was then aged 58, meaning he had been exploited since he was a teenager.

The case came to light this week after Swailes pleaded guilty at Carlisle Crown Court. The 56-year-old is currently on bail awaiting sentencing on February 4.


A search warrant was executed at the Hadrian’s Caravan Park near Carlisle on October 3 and the defendant’s father, also Peter Swailes, was arrested in his caravan on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The 81-year-old died last year, shortly before standing trial.

Swailes senior's response to officers when he was informed of his arrest was: “Not all this slavery thing again."

GLAA and National Crime Agency officers found the victim on the property after knocking on the door of a small shed next to the caravan. He appeared dishevelled and agitated and told officers he'd lived there 40 years.

He then asked officers if he could have a wash, indicating that he cleaned himself in a kitchen sink in a building next to his shed which had only one window - that could not be fully closed - and 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, the GLAA said. Another shed on-site used for the family dog to sleep in was in a far better state, they noted.

The victim told investigators that he worked on farms, painting, slating, and tarmacking for as little as £10 a day.

He was accepted into the government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) on the day he was rescued and continues to receive specialist support and lives in supported accommodation outside of Cumbria.

GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Martin Plimmer said the investigation has been "really harrowing".


“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," he said.

Plimmer said the victim had been "exploited for all his adult life up until just a few years ago" and is only free now, in his 60s.

"This is something that even now I struggle to comprehend. For four decades, he was in effect kept as a slave," he said.

“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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