Alan drifted abroad in the 20s and, for 26 years, we didnt know if he was alive. Only then do we discovered the awful truth for your whole time, he’d been stored in modern-day slavery

I what food was in work after i got the phone call in the human trafficking unit. Iwork for that health service and from time to time need to handle database looks for law enforcement. This call was from your officer whoasked basically could look for apossible former patient who accustomed to live in your area.

A receptionist had the initial call and that i remember being slightly irked as she’d interrupted me when i was interviewing for any new employee. But thankfully she did. What went down next was remarkable but still seems like something from a movie.

The name the officer gave was those of my buddy, whom I hadnt seen for over a quarter of the century. However I still assumed it had been a coincidence because it was this type of common name. It had been only if I requested for that birth date, also it matched Alans, which i felt as though me had stopped.

I understood for the reason that instant that people had found Alan. Anxiously attempting to stay composed, I blurted out his middle name, and requested whether or not this matched.

How are you aware that? she requested.

I think this really is my buddy. He’s been missing for 26 years.

The two of us were stunned. What werethe likelihood of an expert call in regards to a missing person coming right through to hisown sister? However the real shock was still being in the future why Alan, mybig brother, had disappeared for allthat there was a time while he have been held with a slavery gang. It had been beyond comprehension.

My maternal instinct kicked in. Morethan anything, I had been desperate tosee Alan.

But it might be days before that wish was granted. The officer described that they would talk to Alan and call me back, but additionally cautioned that they should speak with my mother.

I drove right to Mums flat. When she saw my red, puffy eyes, she understood something was wrong. And that’s how I needed to let her know: Alan wasnt dead, he was alive, but have been held captive like a slave for 26 years. The bloodstream drained from her face. Much like me, she battled to take this monumental and distressing news.

The people enslaved by the Rooney family lived in basic caravans with no running water or toilet facilities. Photograph: Lincolnshire police/PA

It was all so far from the years when we were children, running through local fields, playing hide and seek, without a care in the world. Back then, I thought our endless days of playing in the sunshine would last for ever.

I know now, though, that life is never that simple and uncomplicated, but not for one minute could I have envisaged the way our lives would change beyond anything we could ever truly understand.

We grew from kids to teenagers and while my life and that of my other brother continued on a fairly normal route towards establishing careers and buying our first homes, Alan started to stray from the path. He had always been such a happy boy, the joker of the class and always smiling, with a huge affection for animals. In many ways, he was quite gullible but we always put it down to his sensitive and caring nature.

However, we soon learned that hiseasy-to-love persona masked problems. Not long after having the whooping cough vaccine at four, Alanhad started having seizures. Consequently, his education suffered and, despite Mums desperate pleas tohealth professionals that Alan hadbeen left with mild learning difficulties,she was told she was beingover-anxious and there was nothing wrong.

While Mum could protect him as achild, it was very different when he became a teenager. Easily manipulated, he got in with the wrong crowd and what started as dabbling in substance abuse quickly escalated to much harder drugs.

We were all devastated. When did we lose the little boy who would run up to us all for cuddles? He would turn up to the house so high that Mum often feared for her own safety.

He drifted away from us, coming home less and less. It was in the days before mobile phones, so we relied on the odd sighting from friends he was spotted at soup kitchens and drop-in centres. As much as it left us empty and incredibly sad, we resigned ourselves to the fact that Alan had made a lifestyle choice, and we all just hoped that one day he would turn his life around and come back to us.

One of the caravans in which the Rooneys victims lived. Photograph: Lincolnshire police

But by the time he was 25, the sightings had stopped. There was the odd rumour had moved to Brighton, but, in reality, none of us had any idea.

By the time Mum was 76, we had all but given up hope of ever learning what had happened to Alan, or that we might one day get a knock on the door from the police with news of his death. What I could never have envisaged wasthe way in which I got that call inJune 2015, and what we would subsequently discover.

After the initial contact, we gradually learned the truth that Alan had beenkept as a slave by a family in Lincolnshire who targeted homeless people and men with learning difficulties, taking them off the streetswith the promise of work and shelter. In fact, he was held captive thelongest.

All 18 vulnerable victims were denied access to money, beaten into submission, given false identities and stripped of all their dignity. While their captors, the Rooney family, lived in luxury on a Traveller site, the people they held captive were made to work seven daysa week laying drives, and lived in basic caravans with no running water or toilet facilities. They were paid in cheap cider, which promoted alcohol dependency, giving the Rooneys another way to control them.

The judge at the trial of 11 family members, Timothy Spencer QC, described their behaviour as chilling in their mercilessness.

After being rescued, Alanhad been kept in asafe house, then ahostel, where he had received medical attention and support to help him readjust back into society. With the sketchy family details Alan could recall, the police had been trying to find us.

Two days after the initial call, we spoke to Alan on the phone. Initially, he was monosyllabic and talked in amonotone. I knew that victims were left extremely withdrawn after years ofbeing institutionalised. But when Ihanded the phone to Mum, Alan said:Its so good to hear your voice. Somehow, we all managed to stay composed, but once we had said our goodbyes, the tears came.

Over the following weeks, we spoke more and more and I emailed Alan, filling in him on the years he had missed. I even created a photo album of his childhood to try to help him reconnect to his roots.

I thought my heart would break, and I felt an overwhelming guilt for not trying to search for my brother sooner. But despite our regrets, Alan never appeared to hold it against us.

Two months after that first phone call, we finally got to see him. My husband and I, along with Mum and our other brother, drove to a pub for the meeting. It was an agonising journey. My stomach churned the whole way and all I could do was gently grip Mums hand none of us had any idea what to expect.

As Alan was led into the pub, it took every ounce of energy I could muster to stop myself falling to my knees and sobbing. That is not how I wanted him to remember the reunion I wanted it to be a happy occasion; a new and positive start. So, instead, as I held him in my arms, my face crumpled into his shoulder. I never wanted to let him goagain.

Once we had all had as many hugs asAlan could cope with, we talked and talked mainly about our children and the rest of the family. But it was very evident that Alans time in captivity had only added to the problems he hadhad when he vanished all those years earlier.

The Rooney family who were jailed for 79 years in total for modern day slavery and fraud. Photograph: Lincolnshire police/EPA

He ate a salad with his hands, laughed inappropriately and too loudly and was not in very good shape physically. He had missing teeth and the few he had left were rotten, and he was extremely gaunt with greying skin.

I wanted to fix him, to make him better and to smother him with love.

That Christmas, Alan came to stay atour home and we soon discovered another problem when we found the bin full of empty beer cans.

In January last year, Alan agreed to come and live with us. I yearned to mother him, togive him a life he had missed out on,but I had to respect hisneed for independence and accept his way ofliving. He still drank too much and his learning disabilities meant he had many childlike attributes he would laugh nervously and get very excitable.

Psychological testing revealed that Alan also had Stockholm syndrome. Hesaw his captors as nice blokes, wholooked after me and stuck up forme.

Within the six-month trial that started in November 2016 at Nottingham crown court, it soon grew to become apparent that waspart from the ringleaders modus operandi. The Rooney family might have beaten their victims and left them to reside in squalid conditions, however they gave them a home something most of them had formerly lost.

The Rooneys themselves resided alifeof luxury in palatial homes, holidaying in Barbados and driving high-performance cars, using drugs, alcohol and violence to entrap theirvictims. Judge Timothy Spencer QC told the mind from the family, Martin Rooney Senior, the gulf between your lives of his relations as well as their workers was akin towards the gulf between medieval royalty and also the peasantry. He stated the sufferers have been stripped of dignity and humanity, and limited to some existence ofdrudgery that they not a way ofescaping.

As a whole, the perpetrators were jailed for 79 years for contemporary-day slavery andfraud.

Could it have been any compensation? Somewhat, yes. The situation introduced present day slavery towards the forefront. I really hope this means individuals will certainly be more conscious that human trafficking exists.

In different ways, no. Alan won’t ever get individuals in the past he’s lost an enormous slice of his existence. We’re gradually attempting to help him readjust. Lucrative has their own flat, he cycles to determine his buddies and involves have dinner around whenever he wants. My mother got her boy back, we’ve our brother, but Alan should never be the carefree spirit we lost all individuals years back.

Names happen to be altered

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