PANORAMA "GANGMASTERS" RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC-1
PAUL KENYON Tonight Panorama goes undercover to expose the illegal labour producing food
for some of our top supermarkets, exploited and underpaid for us. Sgt KEN YOUNG It's not far short of a modern day slave trade. KENYON These factories supply food to some of our biggest supermarkets.
Tonight Panorama reveals how they're using illegal labour provided by men known as 'gangmasters'. YOUNG The corrupt gangmaster is someone who is there to exploit illegal labour,
that's what he exists for and that's how he makes his living, and they make very large sums of money indeed doing that. KENYON This is a story of greed and corruption at one end of the food chain,
fuelled by a supermarket price war at the other. TIM LANG On our doorstep is exploitation of an immense degree. Now that's outrageous. Are we seriously saying the supermarkets don't know about that? KENYON It's also a story of how the guilty run rings round the law. You employ illegal workers, don't you, Mr Stratton. MRS STRATTON For each illegal person we employ Mark gets a fine in court of £5000, but we still do it because we take the risk. KENYON We've got some of your staff admitting on secret film that you employ illegal workers and you think it's a risk worth taking don't you Mr Stratton. A gangmaster is simply someone who hires out casual labour for seasonal work. Most operate inside the law. This is a story of those who don't. Our journey starts here, Victoria Coach Station in London. It's a meeting point for young foreign travellers. Most are tourists but others are here to join the UK's swelling ranks of illegal workers. We've recruited Sergei, a Russian journalist, to join them. Leaving his British passport behind, he follows the most popular trail. Out of London, eastwards and onto Norfolk and the fens. Here there's great demand for casual labour, shifting and changing according to the seasons, and to the supermarkets' desires. The gangmasters employ teams of casuals and hire them out, but more and more are taking on illegal workers. That's the world Sergei is hoping to enter. In King's Lynn he's told to find a man called Kestus, he's a gangmaster from Lithuania and himself an illegal immigrant. A meeting is arranged between Sergei and a friend of Kestus. PAUL KENYON Sergei is going to meet some people here who can get him work. Now the deal is, he's going to have to pay an upfront fee just for an introduction and then he's going to have to pay for some forged documents. So he's paying out before he's even lifted a shovel. The meeting is at night in the train station. The man will take him to meet Kestus at a small terraced house on the outskirts of town. Inside are several East European workers. Kestus, their gangmaster, takes Sergei upstairs. This is where the deal will be done to employ Sergei into the UK's invisible workforce. Without explanation the lights are turned off. KESTUS It's £100 for you to work. Have you got any ID for work permit. SERGEI No, I haven't. KESTUS It will cost £80. I will take the £100 and share it with the company. You will be working officially. I can get you work even tomorrow from 7 o'clock in the morning. KENYON Kestus is acting as a recruiter for this company - FP Personnel. Sergei will now get work through FP. So he's been signed up. For £180 he's bought a ticket into the UK's illegal labour force. At FP's offices he's to meet a friend of Kestus called Andris. He is a direct employee of FP and helps organise the illegals into labour gangs. Kestus is outside waiting for the minibuses to take his recruits to work. The company has some big contracts to supply labour to major food factories. Kestus won't be going with them, he lives off his illegal workers. This is where they've ended up. Right, Sergei has just got a shift here. It's a vegetable factory, and judging by the fact it's got ASDA vans outside it's going to be a pretty big vegetable factory. Now he goes in there without any ID or any paperwork whatsoever so, presumably, as soon as he gets to the front door they'll just turn him away. But no, the illegals were taken straight to the work sheds. This is a potato producer called Fenmarc. It's the main supplier for ASDA. Sergei's job is repackaging, changing the 'enjoy by' dates by 24 hours. We asked ASDA why. They say potatoes have a long shelf life, and sudden changes in demand can mean they want the packaging as up to date as possible. On tonight's shift there are supervisors and casual workers, plus the illegals supplied through FP Personnel. One of them is from Armenia. ARMENIAN WORKER (translated) When there is no work at home then it's better to work here. But there is nothing interesting here, apart from money, and even money is not that good. You can't spend it anyway. You just pay for the flat and for food. KENYON The use of illegal workers at Fenmarc isn't just a one off. FP Personnel has a contract to supply them with labour regularly. It's worth three quarters of a million pounds a year. A group of illegals who have worked at the potato factory live here in appalling conditions. They're Estonians. WORKER You could catch T.B. at this place. I was sleeping under curtains for three days because of the cold. I took them down in the night. KENYON The flat is filthy with concrete floors. It was organised by Kestus' friend, Andris, at FP Personnel. Their evening meal is potatoes picked up during a shift. WORKER I would have got the XX out of here the next but I did not have any money at all then. I even had nothing to eat so I was looking for cigarette butts on the street. With this sort of life one can hang himself. KENYON How do you feel when you see that, people in that predicament? Sgt KEN YOUNG CAMBRIDGESHIRE POLICE I will admit, I do feel very sorry for them. They are victims. The criminals in this, if you like, are the gangmasters. They will cream off for accommodation, for petrol. They will cream off a percentage from the company that they are subcontracting to. They make a lot of money. It's not far short of a modern day slave trade. KENYON The modern day slave master who recruited Sergei lives here, in a King's Lynn council flat. Kestus' empire is expanding so quickly he needs more rooms to house the illegals, so he's negotiating with a friend. KESTUS £700 a month, very cheap, but nothing, not curtain, not this one, not... KENYON The talk is of how many people they can cram into ten rooms. KESTUS Thirty people, 30, thirty people, no problem - or 35, I don't know. KENYON Sergei was still waiting for his next work through FP Personnel. Eight days later he's told to wait outside the office at four in the morning. With him the Estonians from that squalid flat. No one has been told where they're going or what the work is. Four hours later the illegals find themselves in Essex. The noise from the factory makes them uneasy. Whilst they wait they fill in attendance sheets for FP Personnel. They'd been promised £4.50 an hour before setting off. Now they learn it'll be a lot less, and they don't like the look of the work. The van driver from FP Personnel shows them what to do. The company, Kelly's Chickens, doesn't ask anyone for proof of their status. One of the group here is an ex-police officer from Estonia. The illegals are mixed in with the supervisors and the casual labour. WORKER Listen, have they also told you it's £4 an hour? 2nd WORKER £4.50 an hour but now it turns out it's going to be nothing. How much can we do? Thirty chickens minus £4 for the van, then FP takes £10 a week. We are XX over. KENYON Working for Kelly's should have a certain kudos. It supplies chickens to Harrods. Right, so here you are, Kelly's chicken. It's been processed for a factory that used illegal labour and it's ended up here on the shelves at Harrods. So at this end of the food chain you've got some of the most privileged shoppers in the country, at the other end you've got illegal labour, trapped, exploited and scraping around for enough money to eat. It's pay day back at FP Personnel. For that potato shift at Fenmarc Sergei gets £29. What about the chickens? Well, after rising at 4 and returning home at 9 in the evening, Sergei gets just £5.80. So ten days after being taken on through FP Personnel the money he has earned still doesn't cover the introduction fee paid, and there is no pay slip, so no record of tax or national insurance. But there's another type of paperwork which Sergei's gangmaster is keen on - forged documents. Sergei has already paid for his when he was first recruited. This is the character who is going to provide them, another friend of Kestus. He's worried about being spotted by CCTV. WORKER We've got security cameras behind us. SERGEI Camera? Really? WORKER Yes. SERGEI What, really, a camera? WORKER The whole time is security cameras. KENYON The document is a forged Home Office paper which says Sergei is seeking political asylum. In effect it gives him the right to work in the UK. Supplying forged papers is a serious offence. It carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in gaol. To the untrained eye it looks genuine. Other poorer forgeries have even been found at car boot sales in the Norfolk area, but this one won't fool the experts. YOUNG This is by far the most common of the forged forms we're encountering and the scale is huge. The cost of them, depending on the quality and the forger they've come from, could be anything from £150 to £250. KENYON Talk us through how good you think this particular forgery is. YOUNG The quality of this one is fairly good. I mean the paper feels about right, the colour is right. Most of the things that should be there are there. There are a few safeguards the Home Office put on these so that you can detect when they are forgeries and those things are of course missing. KENYON So, Sergei takes it back to Kestus' friend, Andris, the man from FP Personnel. He thinks it's a poor forgery too, but knows someone who can sort out a better one for more money. ANDRIS You see, these dates are all wobbly. They shouldn't be like that. The dates on the stamp should be straight. SERGEI Rudaca said that maybe you can help with that. ANDRIS Well, I don't know. I have to make a phone call about it. I don't personally put them together myself, but it will cost you again because nobody will do it for nothing. All right then. Call me on Sunday and I will tell you when I am going to you. You need Wellingtons because you'll be on the fields. SERGEI I'll borrow. Bye. KENYON Then there's a blow for Andris. We hear that his friend, Kestus, the gangmaster, has been arrested for assault. The police found he was using a false name and lying about where he came from. He's deported back to Lithuania. The news hits hard among Kestus' illegal army of workers. Ruta, from Lithuania, is left with nowhere to live. She'd also lent Kestus a thousand pounds. RUTA I have nowhere to live. You understand? I have no money to go home. I could give myself in and get deported by the Home Office, but I still have debts. This life in England has been a big failure. KENYON This is the man at the top of the multi million pound business empire which runs FP Personnel, he's Preston Andrews. At the bottom of his empire, the illegal workers. On the surface he's a respectable local businessman with numerous companies and offices opposite the police station. Last year his business empire had a turnover of ten million pounds. But we wanted to talk to him about illegal workers. Your organisation is employing illegal workers, isn't it. PRESTON ANDREWS I don't think so my man, no, I don't think so at all. KENYON Oh it is. You're notorious for it aren't you? ANDREWS No, not at all. KENYON You've been doing it for years, employing hundreds of illegal immigrants over the years. What are you going to do about it? We've got secret filming of people in FP Personnel being underpaid, being exploited and being illegal workers. ANDREWS We are not exploiting anyone my man. The organisation that I am involved with is doing everything we possibly can to keep ourselves clean. KENYON This was your opportunity. Do you want to tell us about it or not? ANDREWS We are not employing illegal workers, and if you've got any evidence that we've got anyone within the system anywhere who is illegal we'd like to know about it, and we're working with the Immigration. I'd like you to know that. KENYON You had some workers picked up only last week. The Immigration weren't too happy about that. The week before, Immigration discovered 13 illegals at Fishers Frozen Foods. They were employed through FP Personnel. After meeting Preston Andrews, we sent him details of what we'd secretly filmed. He said staff at FP are made aware of the law and are required to follow it. As for all the wages handed out in FP's offices, he says some gangmasters are just allowed to use the office to pay the casuals they've employed, but they're not FP's responsibility. We told Kelly's chickens what we'd found in their factory. They said they relied on FP Personnel to make checks on workers. They also said the people supplied by FP didn't work hard enough and they asked them to leave. They won't be using FP Personnel again. We then told ASDA about their biggest potato supplier and it's use of illegal workers. We've got secret film of your main potato supplier, Fenmarc, using illegal workers. So you'll be terminating their contract with you, won't you? CHRISTINE WATTS ASDA We were appalled when we found out that there was an issue with Fenmarc and illegal workers, and we took action straight away. The first thing that we've done is to have an independent audit done of their business and that has thrown up some issues. KENYON What were those? WATTS The issues were to do with the fact that Fenmarc were relying too heavily on the employment agencies they were using to check paperwork and credentials and so on. KENYON So it sounds as though they were being negligent. They weren't doing what you expect them to do to ensure that you have clean, ethical labour. WATTS Fenmarc were not against this independent audit that we had carried out. They were not meeting our requirements for employing people legally. KENYON Fenmarc says it has never knowingly used illegal workers and will be making further checks in the future. It has now terminated its contract with FP Personnel. ASDA is so powerful you could come along and say "We're not going to use you anymore, that is your punishment". WATTS Bear in mind that we're talking here about workers being employed by employment agencies, casual workers being supplied to a supplier of ASDA. These aren't ASDA colleagues. We are three steps down the chain here. KENYON The supermarkets may be three times removed from the labour which helps fill their shelves, but their power and influence does affect most aspects of the food chain right through to the gangmasters. The temptation for gangmasters to employ illegals is that you can pay them less and work them harder. Now the supermarkets of course wouldn't endorse that, but it's their activities right at the top of the food chain which can encourage it. If the supermarkets want more, riper, bigger, sooner, the food chain snaps into action. There's a ripple effect from the shelves out to the fields, as there is with the current supermarket price war. [Advertisements] At ASDA we believe there's more to low prices than just special offers.... We can guarantee that we won't be beaten on price on your favourite.... Only our best offers will do for price check 2000. It's called our low price guarantee. KENYON As we enjoy cut price foods, the wages in the fields can be squeezed. DON POLLARD GANGMASTER RESEARCHER, TGWU A lot of it is the buying power of the supermarkets. They buy I think 80% of the fresh produce in this country, and they're putting tremendous pressure both on the pack-house people and on farmers to reduce costs, and they in turn are putting the pressure on the weakest link in the production structure, namely wages and conditions. KENYON Gangmasters prepared to break the law can pay illegals below the minimum wage. The factories, in turn, can supply the supermarkets for less. Prof TIM LANG THAMES VALLEY UNIVERSITY The reality is, cheap food tends to mean cheap labour and we need to start thinking a lot more about this as we encourage supermarkets to vie with each other over price wars. KENYON This farmer is on the receiving end. He supplies lettuces to a number of leading high street stores. It's a competitive market and he suspects some rivals are using illegals to undercut him. DAVID PICCAVER Farmer It's very frustrating when we're trying to negotiate, when we're trying to get more business, to think that we can lose business because somebody is flouting the rules, the regulations, the law. KENYON The regime here is strict. All paperwork is checked. Staff have been trained to spot forgeries, but they're not obliged to do this. The legal responsibility lies with the gangmaster, they're the employer. Mr Piccaver could just say "Not my responsibility" many do. PICCAVER Some companies may be using illegal labour and therefore are able to offer a more competitive price for the same kind of product that we are producing, and in that sense we are losing out because we can't drop our price any further. KENYON If the situation continues as it is, how long do you think before you are tempted to start taking on illegal immigrants? PICCAVER I've always been told one should never say never. I can't really answer that question. KENYON Sergei is ready for work again. He's been taken on by another corrupt gangmaster. More illegal immigrant workers bound for another major food factory. This is PDM, a lettuce producer in Shropshire. It has some big clients - Co-op, Morrisons and Aldi. Later, PDM told us it has never knowingly employed illegals, but then you don't know unless you check, and on the day Sergei was there, no-one did. PDM says it seeks assurances from gangmasters that the labour is legal. Those who aren't have told Sergei how people are recruited into the U.K.'s invisible workforce. Some are smuggled here in lorries. Others use agents in their home country. This man paid £300 for a language course which he never attended. SERGEI So did you study in London? WORKER No. I came from Georgia to London, I called my friends and they told me there was some work. KENYON We decided to see just how simple it is to organise an illegal working trip to the UK by phoning some agents in Lithuania. AGENT (taped telephone call) These courses are only for the purpose of getting a student visa so you can get into the UK. It is only for that. You don't have to study at all. KENYON Agents in Eastern Europe are so unconcerned about their crimes, they even advertise in the press. The price of an illegal trip to the UK - around $1500. Some illegals carry on paying the agent for months afterwards. POLLARD Often they are here with loans from the people who have sent them here who, I must say, are often involved with the criminal mafia in Eastern Europe, and they can't just go back, they have to pay off these loans, and they often make sure that they have to work a long time before these loans are paid off. KENYON Some of those who owe money to agents back home have ended up in Norfolk. Sergei is joining them. Their corrupt gangmaster runs a highly organised operation, even housing the illegals at his headquarters. He's called Mark Stratton. Sergei is spending the night in one of those caravans over there. There's a whole group of them and it seems to be where Mark Stratton keeps some of his workforce, and we know now that Sergei has got some work sorted out for tomorrow. MRS STRATTON I'll put you in room five. SERGEI Lots of Russians. MRS STRATTON Oh yes, a lot, all Lithuanian, Latvian. They come from Estonia. All the Russian.... SERGEI Baltic. MRS STRATTON Yes, that's it. Okay then, and tomorrow I will place you into work somewhere. KENYON The supervisor then takes Sergei on a guided tour of Mr Stratton's empire, and Sergei is in luck, he won't have to sleep in a caravan. Instead, he'll be crammed in a room with five others. This is Mark Stratton. He's made himself a wealthy man living off the back of illegal immigrants. We found out that Mark Stratton is already well known the authorities. Immigration officers have raided premises before and found dozens of illegal workers supplied by him. They've been deported. He's not been prosecuted. So it's tough action on them but he's just allowed to get on with it. It's Sergei's first morning at Mark Stratton's illegal labour farm. There are dozens of them housed here, a ready supply of labour to be mobilised at short notice. It's a 24 hour business, illegals being bussed out for shifts at all times of the day and night. Sergei is being organised into a gang, though before he goes to work he wants some advice on what to do if Immigration catch him. MALE OFFICE WORKER Because you have no work permit, it doesn't matter where in England you are, if you're working and Immigration see you.... MRS STRATTON Immigration always raid. FEMALE OFFICE WORKER Sometimes we hear about it and we can warn people. If we don't hear about it, we can't warn you. MRS STRATTON If we have a factory ring up and they say "We want all legal people" then we make sure they get all legal people, so they don't call immigration. But most of the factories don't even bother to ask for your papers. We've sent no papers to any factory we work for. KENYON Sergei's first job through Mark Stratton is here. This is G.E.O. Adams, a huge meat factory with a £100 million turnover. Sergei is put to work packaging food ready for the supermarkets. FACTORY WORKER You put ten sausages, five and then five, and then one in there, and then we put them in. Okay? KENYON The pay here is above the legal minimum, but none of the illegals are asked for paperwork. Whilst others pump sausages, Sergei explores and discovers he's working for some very important clients. There's Iceland, ASDA, Sainsbury's and Morrisons. When we told G.E.O. Adams what was happening, it said it would never knowingly employ illegal workers and it'll reinforce its checks in the future. It's launching an investigation with the help of the immigration service. Back at base, Sergei has found out that that helpful woman at the front desk is in fact Mark Stratton's mum. MRS STRATTON We've had 60 or 70 people arrested over the last three or four years, but it's a risk you take. OFFICE WORKER But they go back and they come back over again. MRS STRATTON They get deported and then come back in a different name. KENYON One of them is Christina. She was caught by immigration in February and expelled from the UK. Now she's back and she's got some advice. CHRISTINA Don't tell them your name. Make it up. Make up date of birth. Make up everything. No problem. No problem. KENYON This is where she was picked up, it's Lingarden, supplier of flowers to some of the country's leading supermarkets. She was employed by Mark Stratton that time as well. Last year in Britain around 6000 illegal workers were caught and expelled. These were picked up during an immigration sting in Peterborough. Some are already making plans to return. WORKER In Lithuania a very bad, very difficult life now, and in England it's not very good, but it's a little bit better, and we can make a little bit money for our families. Q So when you get sent out of this country, will you try to come back again? WORKER Yes, of course. Q How many times will you try? WORKER When I win. COLIN HARBIN HEAD OF IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT We're probably only scratching the surface of it at the present time but there is certainly a lot of it going on, and we know that there are certain parts of industry that does take advantage of this type of labour, the agricultural industry is just one. KENYON No one knows how many illegals return to the UK, but if they're caught, it's usually just another plane home. The gangmasters, the life blood of illegal labour, go unpunished. They are committing a criminal offence by employing illegal immigrants, but that law has only been used once. Instead, Immigration seem to prefer targeting the workers. MICK CHATWIN Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants I think the current legislation really is toothless. There's been only one prosecution under this law in almost four years, and it's really no indication that it's sending out any kind of signal to deter those who would like to bypass it and to exploit vulnerable workers. KENYON Isn't it the case though that you are targeting the wrong people, you're looking to remove the illegal workers when you should be directing your resources at the gangmasters. HARBIN Well we're doing both. KENYON But the gangmasters you've only prosecuted on in four years. HARBIN We've only prosecuted one in four years but we have a number of others whose cases we're looking at. Bearing in mind... KENYON What kind of deterrent do you think that is though to other gangmasters acting illegally? HARBIN Bearing in mind that the number of people here unlawfully has been estimated in tens of thousands. What we are doing at the present time is concentrating the principal part of our effort on removing those people. KENYON Mark Stratton is one of those who obviously doesn't find the current law much of a deterrent. MRS STRATTON It's the risk you take coming to England. It's your responsibility, your risk. It's our risk to employ you. SERGEI Why your risk? MRS STRATTON Because for each illegal person we employ, Mark gets a fine in court of £5000. CHATWIN A mere £5000 fine, which is the maximum that's imposed under this, really goes nowhere near impacting on people that are prepared to be unscrupulous, that will exploit. The sums of money that can potentially be made in this business are far too big for that. KENYON As Mr Stratton knows in his smart new sports car. It's time to ask him about his illegal empire. Hi, Mr Stratton, Paul Kenyon for BBC Television. You employ illegal workers don't you Mr Stratton. You employ illegal workers. You've been doing it for an awful long time now, and you seem to be making quite a bit of money out of it judging by your car. We've got some of your staff admitting on secret film that you employ illegal workers and you think it's a risk worth taking don't you Mr Stratton. Mr Stratton... (Mr Stratton's car speeds away) KENYON Well, there we go. That was Mark Stratton. He's been employing illegal workers for years now. Sometimes they get deported, sometimes they come straight back again but he, so far, has gone completely unpunished. All the goods in this basket originated from factories where we've secretly filmed. We found them on the shelves of seven high street stores. Now our investigations show that each one of those has sold food processed by illegal workers. We told the supermarkets. Sainsbury's says it demands suppliers meet all legal obligations and will investigate further. Iceland says it's now carrying out its own investigation and will act swiftly if employment laws are being broken. Harrods says it's never been aware of any suppliers using illegal labour, and legal responsibility doesn't lie with the store. The Co-op says it stipulates to suppliers that the exploitation of labour is unacceptable and it's mounting its own inquiry. Aldi says it would never support the use of illegal labour and carries out its own checks on suppliers. Morrison said it doesn't condone the use of illegal labour and works to ensure suppliers meet their contractual obligations. CHRISTINE WATTS ASDA We can play a part, we are playing a part, with an ethical trading policy that's robust and demanding, but we cannot do the job of the government, the police, the immigration service, all the other people who are involved. We're pulling our weight, we're playing our part but it's complex and other people need to do the same. LANG In power terms the supermarkets are by far the greatest accretion of power. So they have proportionately more responsibility. They can knock heads together. They must say look, fair cop guv', we've been found out, it can't add up, we can't go on driving the price of labour down. KENYON In fact, the supermarkets' trade body is trying to do something. It's piloting a set of guidelines designed to weed out illegals at food factories, but they'll be voluntary and the proposed detailed checks will cost money to impose. Isn't it going to cost the consumer money by the time the product ends up on the shelves? DOUG HENDERSON Of course. KENYON So at the end of the day, if we want to resolve this problem, we're looking at higher prices aren't we? HENDERSON Yes, potentially. KENYON How do you think the supermarkets feel about that? They seem to be waging a price war at the moment to drop prices. DOUG HENDERSON FRESH PRODUCE CONSORTIUM Well I think that as one introduces improvements into the supply chain, these improvements add incremental costs on the supply chain and they have to be passed on to the consumers. LANG We're going to have to pay more. We're going to have to pay more to have decent labour, pay decently in free circumstances. If we don't do that, how can we eat our food with pleasure? KENYON The gangmasters we've exposed tonight aren't alone. They're among dozens attracted by the easy money, the simplicity of the crime and the lack of any effective policing. They abuse and exploit a desperate labour force that can't protect itself. They're responsible for the supply of thousands of illegal immigrant workers each year in the UK. What would happen if you removed that illegal labour supply? POLLARD If you removed the entire illegal labour supply there would be, I think, a collapse in the supply chain in the whole food industry. KENYON It's that serious? POLLARD I think it's that serious because the estimate.. the early estimates of the number of illegal workers in this country is something like 20% of the total workforce. KENYON If our invisible workforce is so large, and so heavily relied upon, can we really leave it to those involved in the food chain to sort it out? CHATWIN Essentially, what you have is a conspiracy of silence amongst all the people involved in this because it's not in anybody's economic interest really at the moment to begin to tackle any part of the problem. KENYON So, what's happened since we filmed? Well Kestus, who was expelled from the UK, is back living under a different name. Andris from FP Personnel, since we told FP about our evidence they've suspended him. Ruta, the Lithuanian left homeless and penniless by her gangmaster, she's now working for another one. Preston Andrews, the man behind FP Personnel, he says due to the controversy over workers from outside the EU, he's abandoning that side of his business. And Mark Stratton, we've tried to contact him several times since filming but we're told he's "gone on holiday".