Friday, 12 September 2008


The bodies of at least seven children may be buried at a former care home in what police fear is one of the worst instances of child abuse in Britain.
The remains of a skeleton were discovered on Saturday under the concrete floor of Haut de la Garenne in Jersey.

Specialist teams using sniffer dogs and radar equipment flown in from the mainland have identified at least six other locations at the site where bodies are suspected to have been concealed.Murder detectives now believe they have uncovered the first physical evidence of a child abuse scandal that could rank among the worst ever at a British institution.
Last night there were claims that decades of abuse at the children's home had been covered up for many years by Jersey officials. Police fear the abuse - sexual, physical and psychological - could date back as far as the 1940s and '50s. They are now scouring records of missing children.
When the inquiry was made public last November, more than 140 people came forward to tell of their harrowing experiences.
Victims claimed they had been savagely beaten, indecently assaulted and raped by staff. There were accounts of children being punched in the head, flogged with canes and kept in solitary confinement.
The NSPCC received four times more calls over this inquiry than any other previous appeal.
Three former residents told police that children they knew at Haut de la Garenne had disappeared.
As a result, police teams began searching the large brick building - now a youth hostel - last Tuesday.
The investigation was prompted by police officers who realised that several former employees at the home were being investigated over alleged child abuse.
Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, who is leading the investigation, said the testimonies of former residents could not be ignored.
Mr Harper said a dog specialising in tracing human remains picked up a scent in a corridor on the ground floor.
When officers dug up the concrete, they found the partial remains, believed to be a skull, fragments of fabric, a button and what they thought could be a hair clasp.
Scientists will take several days to identify the gender and DNA evidence may be too decomposed. However, the body is thought to be of a child, aged 11 to 15, dating from the 1980s.
Mr Harper said the dog had identified another six areas where bodies could have been buried at the property.
The findings seemed to be corroborated by the radar equipment. Searches are expected to last another two weeks.
"There are six other areas, half inside and half outside," he said. "Some of the areas may be linked."
When asked about the number of bodies he expected to find, he said: "There could be six or more, but it could be higher than that, depending on what happens over the next few days.
"The radar has tended to show that where the dog has picked up the scent of something, there appears to be some sort of disturbance under the ground, either holes or gaps - disturbed earth."
Police also want to re-examine bones found on the property five years ago which, when discovered, were assumed to be from an animal.
However, they cannot currently be traced, he said.
The latest finding follows a series of scandals during the 1990s.
An inquiry was held in 1990 into abuse at children's care homes in Staffordshire, dubbed the Pin Down scandal after the rooms the youngsters were locked in for weeks.
In 1996, an inquiry looked into allegations of hundreds of cases of abuse in care homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd, Wales, between 1974 and 1990.
In 1997, the NSPCC completed an inquiry into a council home in Sunderland called Witherwack House.
The inquiry named 23 men and women who had physically and sexually assaulted children during the 1970s and 1980s
However, the Jersey case involves allegations of abuse of a horrifying new level. The former children's home was founded in 1850 as a Victorian establishment for boys.
Towards the end of the 20th century, it catered for 60 children at a time and girls were introduced.
Haut de la Garenne closed in 1986 and lay empty for almost two decades.
During this time, the property was used as the police station for the television detective series Bergerac.
In 2004, it was turned into a 100-bed youth hostel.
Several local inhabitants recalled that the children mainly stayed inside Haut de la Garenne.
A farmer, who did not want to be named, said: "People have been surprised. We didn't think that was going on here."
Jersey's Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker, said he was determined that "whoever committed this outrage should be swiftly found and brought to justice".

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