A 30-year-old man went on vacation with friends in the Wales region of Britain in 2000 and mysteriously disappeared. Police would ultimately discover, after getting a tip some 13 years later, that Darrell Simester, now 43, was half-starved, in terrible health and had been forced into slavery during the time of his disappearance.
Working as a slave laborer for over a decade had physically taken its toll, which became obvious as soon as Darrell was found living and working in what were described as “appalling” conditions. His clothes were worn and dirty, he was missing teeth, had infected feet and suffered from malnutrition. After his rescue, he was diagnosed with other ailments, including a deformed spine. Worst of all, he required immediate medical attention for a hernia that was reportedly the size of a soccer ball.
Up until about two years ago, Darrell was forced to sleep in a rat-infested shed. He later slept in a small, mud-strewn trailer with only rags to keep him from freezing in the winter. The only access he had to running water was a trough he shared with horses at the farm.
“I was never allowed in the house,” Darrell told The Sun. “They put me in a shed with rats.”
Described by his father as timmid and vulnerable, Darrell was afraid to runaway from the farm where he worked as a slave for 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. He was never allowed to see a doctor despite his chronic health problems and was only allowed to call his frantic parents about twice a year. Since his captors monitored his calls, Darrell was never allowed to say where he was. At one point, he was forced to lie and tell his parents that he was in Ireland, instead of in Wales, which was just a few hours away from his parents’ home in England. After Christmas 2008 the calls from Darrell stopped altogether.
Described by the British press as “Irish travelers,” his captors reportedly preyed on weak and vulnerable victims to serve as slave laborers on the horse farm. They also convinced homeless persons and immigrants to work in the appalling conditions without pay. Darrell told reporters that he sometimes worked side-by-side with migrant workers from Poland and Russia.
“These type of people roam the streets picking up the vulnerable and offering them a new life,” Darrell’s father Tony , 66, who had not seen his son for over a decade, told The Sun. “Then they are treated like dogs.”
Darrell told the British media that fear for his life prevented him from attempting escape.
“I never had one day off in 13 years,” he told the Daily Mail. “I was scared what they’d do to me if I didn’t stay there.”
Darrell’s ordeal began when he left England to go on vacation with his girlfriend and a married couple in the picturesque area of Porthcawl, Wales. But after an argument with his girlfriend, Darrell left and began to sleep on the streets. He had been homeless before, and so was prepared to cope with the experience.
At one point, police found him sleeping outside, but left him alone when Darrell told him he was okay. Darrell soon after met his captors, who promised him decent wages and lodging if he worked on a nearby horse farm, where they would soon subject him to humiliating physical and mental abuse.
While continuing to undergo therapy since being reunited with his family and friends, Darrell has not yet communicated many details to the public about how his captors abused and forced him to remain on the farm. Police have also remained tightlipped about the investigation of Darrell’s captors. So far, no arrests have been reported. Information about Darrell’s captors and their current location remains sketchy.
After he went missing, Darrell’s mother Jean, 61, as well as her husband actively sought help finding their son. Jean repeatedly contacted police, who would not devote the manpower necessary to find Darrell since they had no evidence that a crime had occurred. Police could only devote resources to an investigation if there was evidence of murder or kidnapping, and as far as investigators were concerned, Darrell’s calls ruled out foul play. Jean also actively solicited the help of missing persons agencies and other organizations, and started a Facebook page called Missing Darrell Simester that has almost 8,000 members.
Soon after Jean was reunited with her son, she used Facebook to announce the good news. She wrote:
“We have our son Darrell back home..So this has been the greatest day of our lives. Please respect our privacy for the next few days we have to let him recover. Many thanks for all your good wishes over the years and not giving up …You are wonderful people and I feel that I know you all. From the bottom of my heart a very big thank you..xx.”
Meanwhile, Darrell’s parents have publicly communicated their joy at having found their lost son and have not described in what way, if any, that they might seek justice. Recently, for example, Darrell’s mother gave an update about her son, who has yet to fully recuperate. While Darrell has yet to describe to the public exactly what happened to him during his captivity and continues to undergo treatment, Darrell’s mother has recently written that he continues to make progress:
“Just a little update for you all, Darrell is settling down to a peaceful family life, something he has missed out on in the last thirteen years…his health is our priority and each ailment is being dealt with even though it seems to take ages to get anything done for him…he at last sleeps in a proper bed with bed linen and proper washing facilities, clean clothes, all of which he has not had…”