Evil gang who preyed on vul­ner­a­ble be­hind bars

Evening Times - - NEWS -

A GANG of gypsy trav­ellers are be­hind bars af­ter a sav­age cam­paign of kid­nap­pings, vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion against ter­ri­fied work­ers.

The clan were lead by fear­some Robert McPhee – nick­named The Tank Com­man­der.

The 65-year-old teamed up with sons James, 45, and Steven McPhee, 37, as well as son-in-law John Miller, 38, to prey on vul­ner­a­ble men.

The vic­tims – eight in to­tal – came from bro­ken or trou­bled back­grounds.

One man­aged to es­cape but was caught at Glas­gow’s Cen­tral sta­tion and hauled back.

The men were promised work and money do­ing jobs such as monoblock­ing drive­ways for the no­to­ri­ous fam­ily.

But, they did mam­moth shifts for lit­tle or no pay – and were bru­tally pun­ished if they com­plained or at­tempted to es­cape.

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 £5,000 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.

But they were found guilty fol­low­ing a five week trial at the High Court in Glas­gow.

Robert McPhee – known as Bobby – was con­victed of 14 charges, James McPhee eight and John Miller was found guilty of two.

The cat­a­logue of crimes in­cluded ab­duc­tions, as­saults and hold­ing work­ers against their will or in “servi­tude”.

Steven McPhee had also stood trial, but he ad­mit­ted to an as­sault­ing one worker near the end of the case.

The crimes spanned be­tween 1992 and 2016.

They stayed at a num­ber of trav­eller sites across Scot­land in­clud­ing one in Bath­gate, West Lo- thian and an­other in Larkhall, South La­nark­shire.

They lat­terly had a base at Cur­ry­side Pig­gery in Shotts, South La­nark­shire.

Pros­e­cu­tors said work­ers were “well cho­sen” due to be­ing “vul­ner­a­ble” mak­ing them “ripe” to be ma­nip­u­lated.

James Keith was a home­less teenager when he was ap­proached. He was kept in a car­a­van with no run­ning wa­ter.

James was “scared” of Robert McPhee who dished out beat­ings if more work had not been gen­er­ated.

James later fled in ter­ror, but re­mem­bered be­ing “cap­tured”.

The four were all re­manded in cus­tody ahead of sen­tenc­ing next month.

The ac­cused ap­peared at the High Court in Glas­gow

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