Second Care Home ‘Torture Pit’ Is Opened

A second suspected underground torture chamber was broken into by a police search team yesterday at the Jersey care home at the centre of a child abuse investigation. A sniffer dog last night indicated the presence of possible human remains.

The discovery came as detectives said that corrupt former police officers, politicians and a businessman were trying to discredit the inquiry into the Haut de la Garenne home.

The second chamber was uncovered next to a cellar that contained traces of human blood, a pair of shackles and a concrete bath. Detectives believe that there are another two connected chambers beneath the southern wing and other underground rooms elsewhere in the building.

Former residents at the home between the 1960s and 1980s have said that they were chained, physically abused and raped in cellars. Detectives believe at least one child may have been murdered and that suicides and mystery deaths of other children may have been hidden.

Officers sent a sniffer dog yesterday into the second chamber to search for traces of human remains. A spokeswoman for Jersey Police said: “This room could be three times the size of the first room and examining it properly will take some time.

“One of the dogs will go in first, through a hole in the ceiling. A forensic team will go in afterwards, depending on if anything is found. Obviously, if he finds something significant, then that slows down the whole operation.”

Part of a child’s skull and possible fragments of human bone found buried in the northern wing of the building are being studied.

Jersey Police said yesterday that at least one of its former officers had made threats against those co-

operating with the inquiry. It is also investigating claims that victims are being threatened by former child care staff. This will strengthen demands for Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to send independent prosecutors and judges to the Channel island.

More than 300 people joined a rally to remember the victims in Jersey’s capital, St Helier, last weekend. Demonstrators called for the overthrow of the island’s government amid accusations of a cover-up for five decades.

A police spokeswoman said: “A small number of police officers have left the force in various circumstances after being accused of activities which could be described as corrupt. They, and associates of theirs, including a local businessman and a small number of politicians, have conducted a high-profile campaign aimed at discrediting officers involved in their cases. This has included sending a large number of letters, including a threat to damage the home and vehicle of one of the officers concerned.

“Following the announcement of this inquiry, a politician connected with the child abuse debate was approached by at least one of these former officers and warned not to trust or co-operate with the officers leading the inquiry.”

The spokeswoman said that that no minister now in office was involved and that the investigation had received the full support of the Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker, and the Home Affairs Minister, Wendy Kinnard. Jersey Police said they had seen letters and e-mails sent to a number of newspapers that attempted to smear the leaders of the inquiry.

“We would emphasise that there is at present no evidence to suggest that these officers were involved in any so-called cover-up of former offences of the type being investigated,” the spokeswoman said. “The focus of the inquiry remains the detection of people who have committed offences against children and we will not be deflected from this.

“Should there be evidence of criminal offences in connection with a failure to deal with previous matters, then those will be investigated following the priority task of bringing suspects for abuse to justice.”

South Yorkshire Police have been brought in as an outside force to conduct a separate inquiry into decision-making within the Jersey force. It could lead to internal disciplinary measures.

More than 160 people have come forward to say they were abused at Haut de la Garenne. Former residents have told police that abuse took place on sailing trips and that children were forced to watch others being abused.

Lenny Harper, Jersey’s deputy chief officer, said that detectives were concerned that one incident could have led to the death of a child. “We can’t say that a person definitely died, but if you look at it you have to think there is a strong possibility that the person died,” he said. “This person was never seen again.”

Investigators have already charged a former warden with child abuse between 1969 and 1973 and expect to arrest two more people soon.