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  • More orphanage bodies feared
  • By Julia May In London
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • 26/02/2008 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 27 articles in 2008 )
Police stand outside the Youth Hostel at Haut de la Garenne on the Channel Island of Jersey.
A FURTHER six or more children's bodies may be uncovered at a former orphanage on Jersey, in the Channel Islands, in a child-abuse investigation dating back 60 years, the British officer leading the case said.

Sniffer dogs have identified six potential sites after the remains of a child were found under the floor of Haut de la Garenne on Saturday, following a police investigation that has taken statements from 140 alleged abuse victims from Britain, Australia, Thailand and Germany. Two Jersey officers have flown to Australia to interview former residents of the home.

The child's remains were found under a concrete floor at the building - now a youth hostel - and are believed to include a skull, fragments of fabric, a button and what may be a hair clasp. They are to be forensically tested to determine the child's age and sex.

The senior investigating officer, Lenny Harper, said 40 suspects had been identified in the investigation, most of whom were "respected figures of the establishment" in positions of power at the home.

The inquiry began more than a year ago after officers found links between an earlier abuse inquiry involving the Jersey Sea Cadet Corps and institutions including Haut de la Garenne. In November they appealed for alleged victims of abuse to contact them. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's hotline received four times more calls in the first week than any other British case of this type.

"We got information from three different sources that there may well be human remains here," Mr Harper said.

The alleged abuse is believed to have taken place between the 1940s and 1986, when the home was closed, with most of the attacks happening in the 1960s. "Allegations range from physical assaults right through to rape," Mr Harper said. "It is difficult to envisage more horrific crimes than some of those that are alleged to have been carried out here."

One man, Gordon Waterfield, 76, has been charged with three indecent assaults on girls under the age of 16, allegedly committed while he was employed at Haut de la Garenne. Waterfield is not being investigated in relation to the remains.

Mr Harper said some residents had reported sexual and physical abuse but agencies had failed to act. "We are talking about a different age with different attitudes. Some people suffered because they were not dealt with in the way they should have been," he said.

Jersey's former minister for health and social services, Stuart Syvret, was ousted in September after blowing the whistle on what he called "systematic and long-term failure" of child protection on the island.

"We are looking at the last six decades - since the end of the Second World War - at instances of abuse on vulnerable children, children in care. This has been swept under the carpet. It just doesn't get any worse," Senator Syvret told the BBC.

Haut de la Garenne, whose name means "top of the rabbit warren" in French, was opened in 1867 as an industrial school "for young people of the lower classes of society and neglected children" in St Martin, in Jersey's east. Standard practice reportedly saw bad behaviour punished with deprivation, flogging and solitary confinement.

Following World War II the building was used as a school and orphanage for children with special needs. After its closure it was used for the filming of the police series Bergerac. It was then converted into Jersey's first youth hostel.

The NSPCC's hotline for children and adults who may have been affected by child abuse in institutions in Jersey is: +44 (0)20 7825 7489.

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