Connors traveller family trial: Grieving relatives speak out
The family of Christopher Nicholls, whose remains were found near the Connors-owned Beggar's Roost caravan site, have spoken of their anguish.
Five members of the Connors family were convicted on Friday of forcing men to work for them for a pittance.
And Christopher's parents have now spoken of their horror at the life he led with them.
Christopher, whose body was found in a shed on May 10, 2008, was the forgotten man in the three-month trial. The Connors family, who were found guilty of forced labour. But it was Christopher's death which sparked Operation Tundra and brought about the family's downfall.
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An inquest into his death is yet to be completed.
What is known is that he was run over late at night on October 30, 2004, on the main road near the Connors caravan site at Bamfurlong.
His father and step-mother told The Times they suspected he was trying to escape the Connors when he was knocked down.
He was treated at Bristol Frenchay Hospital but returned to the family with speech and memory problems and was incontinent.
The Connors, the Nicholls family say, took him to a solicitors to try and win compensation. "We think he refused to sign the paperwork," said Mrs Nicholls.
By then, aged 39, he was too ill and brain-damaged to dig up drives or go door to door so the family believe they had no more use for him. He died in the winter of 2005, curled up under a tarpaulin in a shed a short walk from the Connors' home.
After his remains were found years later, police traced DNA in his tooth and visited the Nicholls family, who lived near Bath. They began to make their own inquiries into how he died and found that someone had been claiming Christopher's benefits in the months after he died.
They traced it back to the Connors' Beggars Roost caravan park. No one would speak to them there.
Their son had been an insurance salesman who enjoyed golf and camping and was "quiet, shy" but "had a lot of friends" and "a good sense of humour" but had lacked confidence.
When his relationship with the mother of his two children broke down, and he lost his mother to cancer and younger brother in an crash, he "closed down", said Mr Nicholls.
He went missing in 2002, but came home six months later in a suit jacket and clean-shaven and said he had been offered a new job and a chance for a fresh start by a woman he had met. But that woman, the Nicholls family said, was Breda Connors. It was the last time they ever saw him.
The Nicholls family were shown a photograph by police when he was picked up for begging in Cheltenham. "He looked like something from Belsen," Mrs Nicholls added.
The Connors family will appear at Bristol Crown Court today for sentencing.