Brutal family of slavemasters led by man named the ‘Tank Commander’ who beat and exploited vulnerable workers during 24 year campaign of abuse are jailed for a total of 29 years

A crime clan behind a brutal campaign of kidnappings, violence and intimidation were yesterday jailed for a total of 29 years.

The gang kept terrified workers ‘in servitude’ and savagely punished anyone who complained or tried to get away.

They were led by Robert McPhee, 65 – nicknamed the Tank Commander – who was backed up by his sons James, 45, and Steven, 37, along with son-in-law John Miller, 38.

'Tank Commander Robert McPhee (pictured) kept his workers in servitude

‘Tank Commander’ Robert McPhee (left) and his son James McPhee (right) were part of a gang that kept eight worker ‘in servitude’

Traveller John Miller threatens to skin escaped worker alive
This former piggery in Shotts is where the gang disciplined workers as they kept them in servitude 

This former piggery in Shotts is where the gang disciplined workers as they kept them in servitude

Their eight victims came from broken or troubled backgrounds and were promised work and money doing jobs such as monoblocking driveways.

But they worked long shifts for little or no pay – and were assaulted if they failed to do as ordered.

Passing sentence, Lady Stacey said people with a ‘variety of problems’ were ‘used by them’, adding: ‘You did not treat them properly.

‘In some cases there was violence over a long period, in others there were abductions by which you forced people away from their families and forced them to work for you.’

Robert McPhee - front and centre - can be heard abusing another traveller in this video, threatening to rip his head off and challenging him to a fight 

Robert McPhee – front and centre – can be heard abusing another traveller in this video, threatening to rip his head off and challenging him to a fight

 

James McPhee was given nine years, while Miller was sentenced to seven years. Both face three years of supervision after release. Steven McPhee was jailed for three years.

Their catalogue of crimes included abductions, assaults and holding workers against their will or in ‘servitude’.

After hearing his sentence, James McPhee said: ‘I’m an innocent man.’ The gang claimed they had shown ‘kindness, generosity and tolerance’ to workers.

They made a living from their monoblocking, slabbing and tree-cutting businesses and stayed at traveller sites across Scotland, including one at Bathgate, West Lothian, and in Larkhall, Lanarkshire.

Prosecutors said their workers were ‘vulnerable’ making them ‘ripe’ to be manipulated.

Victim John Anderson told how he was ‘taught a lesson’ after he tried to get away, while Brian McEwen said he was beaten so often he would be ‘yelping in pain and cowering like a dog’.

James Keith – a homeless teenager when he was approached by the family – told the trial: ‘You had no option but to go back.’

One victim who fled was told there was a £5,000 bounty on his head and he would be ‘skinned’ unless he returned. The crimes took place between 1992 and 2016.

The gang was snared during a large scale police probe that began in 2016.

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