A victim of the Czech trafficking operation run by a Plymouth-based family (inset) said he felt as "free as a bird" on the day police raided the property he stayed at (pictured: stock image of a silhouetted man)
A man shipped to Plymouth from the Czech Republic and made to work as a slave has described the moment he was released as feeling "as free as a bird".
The 57-year-old, who has asked not be named, was brought to the city as part of a large human trafficking operation and made to work at a city property on behalf of a Czech Roma family.
Unable to speak English, the victim was forced to sleep on the floor of a Mutley Plain flat inhabited by other slaves, open a bank account and hand over his cards to the family.
The five defendants on trial at Plymouth Crown Court
He worked in a meat processing factory in Cornwall.
His weekly wage, roughly £200, was divvied up among the family members and he was banned from using any of the toilet facilities at the address.
Instead, he was made to urinate in the garden or use a toilet in a cafe on Mutley Plain.
Police raided properties across Plymouth in September 2014, arresting a total of eight people suspected of human trafficking and freeing eight men from slavery.
On the day of action, DC Mark Watson, from the serious organised crime investigation team, said the victim told him he felt "as free as a bird".
"This particular victim was living apart from his family in the Czech Republic and met a family member of the gang who, in effect, pretended to be his girlfriend for a short while," he explained.
"They came over to Plymouth together from Prague and spent a couple of days in a hotel.
"But within three days, she had turned around and gone back to the Czech Republic, leaving him here.
"He was then taken up by another member of the family and lived with them in Plymouth.
One of the victims slept in a cupboard under the stairs
"Very quickly, he was taken to the Department of Work and Pensions to get a national insurance number, he was made to set up a bank account and he was given work at a meat processing factory.
"The staff members actually noticed he was always shabbily dressed and always appeared to be hungry.
"They started giving him spare sandwiches out of the vending machines, just to help him eat.
"On the day of action, we took him to a reception centre along with the other victims just to allow them to settle down and to relax.
"It was there that he said to me, 'I feel as free as a bird'.
"That kind of summarised the whole thing for me and our success with this case, as far as he is concerned.
"We have taken him from that bad situation he was in and put him into his own independent living."
After being freed from the "mental shackles", as DC Watson described it, the victim decided to remain in Plymouth and start a new
life for himself – free of the oppression or conditions he had been forced to live with.
He has since found employment, accommodation and is earning a wage – a luxury he is still coming to terms with.
DC Watson continued: "He's elected to remain in the UK. He's working, he's got his own bank account and he's got access to his own wages.
"He's very happy and you can see a complete physical change in him from what he looked like two years ago.
"I went to see him recently and he came up to me with his wallet out and he had about £200 in there but you would think he had won the national lottery.
"That was his week's wages, which he was never given while living with the family."
On Monday, October 24, Ruzena Tancosova, her brother Petr Tancos, their cousin Martin Tancos; and the men's partners Nela Dzurkova and Katerina Kuriova were found guilty of trafficking charges following a two-year prosecution and three trials.
Tancosova, of Southern Terrace, Mutley; Petr Tancos and his partner Nela Dzurkova, both of Baring Street, Greenbank, and Martin Tancos and his partner Kuriova, both of North Road East, Stonehouse, were all convicted of conspiracy to traffic individuals into the country for the purpose of exploitation between April 6, 2013, and September 16, 2014.
Tancosova, Petr Tancos and Dzurkova were found guilty of conspiracy to traffic for purposes of exploitation between January 1, 2010, and April 5, 2013.
Tancosova and Petr Tancos also required a person to perform forced or compulsory labour between 2010 and 2014.
Tancosova was found guilty of acting as a gangmaster between January 1, 2010, and September 16, 2014, where she allegedly supplied workers to a processing and packaging factory.