THEY WERE SO BRAZEN – THEY TRADED ONE CAPTIVE FOR A TRUCK
believe the gypsy traveller clan could have claimed up to 50 victims.
The charges included keeping victims “in servitude”, abduction, assault and torture and dated as far back as 1992.
McPhee, 65, James, 45, Steven, 37, and Miller, 38, were remanded in custody last night after their five-week trial ended.
Robert McPhee was convicted of 14 charges, James McPhee eight and John Miller two.
Steven McPhee had also stood trial but he admitted to assaulting one worker near the end of the case. They will be sentenced next month. The High Court in Glasgow heard that the McPhee family made a good living from their mono-blocking, slabbing and tree cutting businesses.
Their victims – selected for their vulnerability – came from broken or troubled backgrounds.
They were promised work and money. But they did mammoth shifts for little or no pay – and were brutally punished if they complained or attempted to escape the gang’s clutches.
In her closing speech to the jury, prosecutor Kath Harper said victims’ accounts had shown a “culture of control and violence” at the hands of the McPhee family.
It emerged after the verdicts that all four have criminal pasts.
James and Steven McPhee were locked up for more than five years in 2009 for a machete attack.
Robert McPhee has convictions for fraud and possession of a bladed weapon.
Miller was convicted of assault and abduction at Falkirk Sheriff Court in 2005.
Robert McPhee and John Miller face a proceeds of crime confiscation order hearing in May.
And prosecutors are also seeking a trafficking and exploitation prevention order.
During the lengthy trial, one tortured victim told how he was battered and “taught a lesson” when he tried to get away.
Another lived in a caravan with no water or toilet – before later being told he was “owned” by the family.
Jurors heard further grim evidence of a petrified worker “left cowering like a dog” due to the abuse. One man who fled was also told he had a £5000 bounty on his head and would be “skinned” with a razor unless he returned.
The gang denied the charges, claiming they were picked on by “overzealous” police.
And they insisted they had shown “kindness, generosity and tolerance” to workers.
James McPhee even tried to brand the men as “so evil” for making up “fantasies”.
The victims were kept at a number of traveller sites across Scotland including one in Bathgate, West Lothian, and another in Larkhall, Lanarkshire.
The McPhees latterly had a base at Curryside Piggery in Shotts, Lanarkshire.
The court heard James Keith was a homeless teenager when he was approached by the family. He was kept in a caravan with no running water and beaten.
James fled in terror, but remembered being “captured”. He told the trial: “You had no option, but to go back. You did not get an option.”
James ended up marrying Christina, the sister of a fellow victim, John Anderson.
But James McPhee tracked him down to her home in Paisley and told Christina: “You are divorced now.”
She told the court: “I have never seen him (her husband) go so white in his life – white with fear.”
John Anderson revealed how he was “taught a lesson” after he once fled to England.
He was taken to Larkhall where Robert McPhee punched, kicked and hit him with a broom.
The witness stated: “James (McPhee) told me that it was time to meet his dad. I knew what he meant. I was to get a beating.”
He described how he was allegedly attacked in the kitchen by Robert McPhee – who he called Bobby – and ended up grounded.
The man said he was punched “all over”, hit with a broom and kicked.
Prosecutor Kath Harper asked: “How strong was Bobby?”
He replied: “A very, very strong man. He is a tank.”
You had no option but to go back. You did not get an option JAMES KEITH
HEADQUARTERS The site of what used to be the piggery in Shotts, Lanarkshire