Labour gang victim Christopher Nicholls' death still a mystery
The death of a man who worked for a family of jailed travellers will remain a mystery.
How the skeletal remains of Christopher Nicholls, from the Bath area, ended up in a shed close to where the notorious Connors family lived in Gloucestershire will never be known, an inquest was told yesterday.
Mr Nicholls, 41, was picked up by the Connors a decade ago to work with dozens of others on their patio and driveway business. The men – often homeless or addicts – were beaten and forced to work for as little as £5 a day.
Gloucestershire Coroner's Court heard Mr Nicholls was found in May 2008 in a derelict garden shed in Staverton – close to where the Connors lived at Beggar's Roost traveller site.
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Police believe he had been "fly-tipped" by the Connors because he was no longer able to work for them because of his injuries.
Deputy Gloucestershire Coroner David Dooley recorded an open verdict because he did not have enough evidence to support a more substantive conclusion.
Mr Nicholls had a history of alcohol and drug addiction and not seen his father since 2002 and his two children since 2005.
The last confirmed sighting of the former insurance salesman was in March 2005, at a medical appointment.
The hearing was told that in October 2004, Mr Nicholls was involved in an accident with a van outside the traveller site and suffered serious head injuries.
He was treated in hospital in Bristol but the accident left him incontinent and with speech and memory problems. He would have needed lifelong medication and returned to live with the Connors.
Months later, Mr Nicholls tried to make a claim for compensation for his injuries and contacted a solicitor.
Detective chief inspector Dave Sellwood, who led the inquiry into the Connors, told the inquest that Mr Nicholls and another street drinker called Edward McCann were picked up by William Connors towards the end of 2000 as they hitchhiked, were offered work and accommodation, and taken to Cheltenham.
"Edward McCann stated they were paid a pittance, not even a tenner a day," Mr Sellwood said.
"Both of them gave their benefit books to Brida Connors and neither ever saw the benefits again. Sometimes the Connors would buy them food.
"During our inquiry we identified 37 men who had worked for the family in this way. Christopher Nicholls was one such man."
A post-mortem examination could not confirm any cause of death due to the decomposition of the remains. Mr Nicholls was identified by DNA.
Mr Nicholls's father John and step-mother did not attend yesterday's hearing, although his daughter Donna did. She did not wish to speak after the inquest.