Police Excavate Cellar At Ex-Children’s Home In Jersey Amid Fears It Hides A Mass Grave
The bricked-up cellar of the Haut de la Garenne children’s home was being excavated last night amid fears it could be a mass grave.
The basement where youngsters were once held in solitary confinement as punishment may hold the bodies of six children, police believe.
Specialist teams using sniffer dogs and ground radar equipment have identified a number of suspicious sites around the cellar.
Class of 1905: Quiet discipline at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey. But the ensuing years, it is feared, brought terrible acts of abuse
A skull and the partial remains of a child’s skeleton were found under the concrete grounds of the home at the weekend following the launch of a major inquiry into abuse there over half a century.
The horror unfolding at Haut de la Garenne, in St Martin, Jersey – known locally as Colditz – threatens to become the worst-ever child care scandal on British soil.
Today another victim came forward to give an horrific account of the alleged abuse she suffered during her time at the home.
The mother-of-two described how she was drugged, beaten and sexually assaulted by staff as officials turned a blind eye when she begged for help.
Grim discovery: Police found the remains of a children’s body at the former children’s home
Jersey’s deputy chief of police Lenny Harper said the extensive basement under the building, which had been filled in and sealed, would be excavated inch by inch.
He said inquiries were focusing on the cellar after sniffer dogs went mad in the area around it.
“It is a very slow methodical process,” he said. “We have had some positive indications from the dogs but there could be a number of explanations.”
Police tents hide the excavations at the care home as officers continue to excavate the cellar and continue the search for more remains
Last night ten more abuse victims came forward, bringing the total number claiming to have suffered assault, indecent assault and rape at the home to 150.
The NSPCC has received 63 calls from adults reporting allegations of childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Those who grew up at the care home have spoke out about the regime of fear and ritual punishments by staff.
Historical documents show that children were regularly locked in cells for 24 hours in solitary confinement and flogged until they bled. On one occasion a boy had his finger cut off during a lashing with a sharp cane.
Kenny Le Quesne, 57, was a resident at the home for six weeks during the mid 1960s when he was a young teenager.
“My mother sent me there after she caught me stealing some money from her purse,” he said. “I should have been there for only a couple of days, but within hours of arriving I ran away. When I returned the principal beat me with a birch cane.
“There were a lot of older boys who had done far worse than steal a shilling. They were all part of gangs and they were terrifying. I used to cry myself to sleep every night.
“On one occasion, one of the boys chucked a lump of fat into the stew I was eating in the lunch hall. One of the guards saw me take it out and hit me. He told me to eat it.
“When I refused he hit me again. It made me retch, but I had to get it down because everyone was watching me.”
Archaelogists have been called in to study the remains, but there are fears a mass grave may be hidden in the basement of the Victorian building
One former resident spoke out in 1979 of the terrifying regime he experienced.
Frank Lewis, who has since died, told the Jersey Evening Post about the week a new headmaster arrived.
He said: “Within a week he’d flogged me until I bled in front of the whole school and had cut off a boy’s finger with a sharp cane.”
Social worker Simon Bellwood, 33, who claims he was sacked as a care home manager after voicing concerns about the home, said the lid was about to be lifted on “50 years of child abuse” in Jersey.
He said child services on the island had been plagued by a “Dickensian” system of abuse unchecked because Jersey is not governed by British law or European Union legislation.
Jersey is a crown dependency, not part of the UK but owing allegiance to the British crown. It is largely self-governing and has its own legislative assembly, legal system, courts and police service.
The UK government has historically assumed responsibility for its defence and international relations and only has power to intervene in domestic affairs if there is a “grave breakdown or failure in the administration of justice or civil order.”
Haut de la Garenne, which was used as a police station in the 1980s TV series Bergerac, was established in 1867 for “young people of the lower classes of society and for children neglected and in a state of destitution”.
Pictures around 1905 reveal a strict classroom regime with the children sitting quietly at their desks. The children were encouraged to compete with island elementary schools for prizes in subjects and the school had a formidable reputation for its brass band.
Police started investigating the site, which also used to be an orphanage, after tip offs. The inquiry began in secret and was made public only in November last year.
Officers are investigating 40 suspects and are questioning care home staff.
They are also looking at several cases of missing children.
Forensic teams at the site have expanded their search and put up two more investigation tents.
It could be two weeks before the remains found at the weekend are identified as there are no teeth in the skull to check with dental records.
Only one person has been charged in connection with the inquiry. In January Gordon Claude Wateridge, 76, was accused of indecently assaulting three girls under 16 between 1969 and 1979.
In addition to this, it has emerged a notorious paedophile dubbed the “Beast of Jersey” visited the Haut de la Garenne orphanage dressed as Father Christmas during his reign of terror in the 1960s.
Sick Edward Paisnel was jailed for 30 years in 1971 for a string of sex attacks on children and women spanning 11 years.
Serial sex attacker Edward Paisnel: The paedophile, seen on the left in the costume and mask he wore to carry out his crimes, was dubbed ‘The Beast of Jersey’. He is known to have made visits to Haut de la Garenne
Paisnel, a respected building contractor who died in 1994, terrorised the island by abducting and abusing children in St Martin, where police are excavating the Haut de la Garenne, now a Youth Hostel.
He would assault children in their bedrooms in the dead of night and threaten to kill them if they told anyone.
A guardian of several foster children, he was obsessed with black magic and wore a rubber mask and nail-studded bracelets during his attacks.
Known as the “Jersey Rapist” and the “Beast of Jersey”, he was caught aged 46 and found guilty of 13 counts of assault, rape and sodomy.
He also visited the orphanage, where he was known as “Uncle Ted” and would hand out sweets and toys in order to groom unsuspecting children.
Police searching seven sites at the site where the remains of a child were found said they were focusing on a bricked-up cellar.
But they said there is “no evidence” at this stage to link him with the Youth Hostel remains or a suspected paedophile ring at the centre of the investigation.
Detectives said a sniffer dog specially trained to locate human remains had identified a number of hotspots at the cellar within the former care home.
Officers were alerted to the site, which also used to be an orphanage, after a child abuse investigation was launched last November with allegations dating back to the 1960s.
One man who campaigned fiercely for justice for the victims was Jersey Senator Stuart Syvret, who says he was sacked as the island’s minister for health and social service for voicing his concerns.
He revealed how children were routinely punched in the head, flogged with birch canes and locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks at a time.
Others suffered horrific sexual attacks which left them with deep psychological scars decades later.
Mr Syvret said: “Two victims I have been talking to have described a culture of violent assaults which they came to think was the norm.
“One was punched to the floor by a female member of staff who held her foot over his throat and screamed: ‘You are scum of the earth.’
“Then there was the violent sexual attacks which many suffered.
“If it was a couple of instances it would be grave enough. But what makes it totally apocalyptic is that for decades there was the torture, neglect and malnourishment of children in care.
“For most of this time and for many years afterwards it was covered up and concealed. If it had been written as a script for Bergerac it would have been torn up as too extreme.”
Mr Syvret said yesterday that the killer may have returned to the site to move the remains and bury it under concrete after learning of plans to convert the Victorian building into a youth hostel five years ago.
In 2003, builders also found bones buried next to some children’s shoes. They were handed to police but officers decided they were animal remains.
The senator commissioned an independent report into the standard of care in children’s homes on Jersey several years ago.
He claims the findings were covered up by fellow politicians. A formal inquiry has now been launched into his allegations.
The biggest child abuse scandal uncovered so far happened in North Wales. The Waterhouse inquiry found widespread sexual abuse, mostly of boys, in Clwyd children’s homes over 16 years.
Up to 650 youngsters are known to have been involved.
On the case: Forensic sniffer dog Eddie at the former chidren’s home in Haut de la Garenne
SNIFFER DOGS THAT MADE THE FIND
The horror of Haut de la Garenne was discovered thanks to the super-sensitive noses of two springer spaniels. They sniffed out the human remains found on Saturday through seven inches of concrete, police said.
The dogs also pinpointed several other suspicious sites both inside and outside the former children’s home.
The first spaniel, seven-year-old Eddie, is an ‘enhanced’ victim recovery dog specialising in detecting buried human blood, bones and flesh.
The second, Keela, has been trained to track down remains corresponding to microscopic blood traces.
Only last year the two ‘cadaver’ dogs from South Yorkshire Police were in Portugal, taking part in the hunt for clues to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
They found specks of blood in the McCanns’ apartment, and were used to conduct searches elsewhere in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.
Eddie has worked in Britain, Ireland and the U.S. earns fees of up to £500 a day. His skill is so rare that he is insured for £4.5million – and fed on salmon.