Jersey Abuse Case: Doubts Over Bone Fragment Evidence
A fragment of bone which prompted the extensive excavation of a children’s care home in Jersey has been ruled out of the island’s abuse investigation after scientists concluded it may only be a piece of wood.
The find at Haut de la Garenne on February 23 led to the discovery of four secret cellars – known as punishment rooms – beneath the home and evidence including children’s teeth, blood stained items and shackles.
The States of Jersey Police launched a murder investigation, more than 100 people came forward to report abuse dating back to the 1950s and excavation at the property is still taking place.
But the first physical evidence in the 18-month long investigation – described in the early stages as part of a human skull – now looks to be irrelevant to the inquiry.
Lenny Harper, the senior investigating officer on the case, insisted the development did not affect the police investigation.
The specimen was sent to the UK mainland for forensic analysis on March 6 and eight days later, detectives were told that the fragment did not contain enough collagen to date it properly, probably because it was so old.
At the beginning of April, further analysis suggested that the find was potentially wood or seed and that if it was bone, it was a very old specimen, dating back to before 1940.
A police spokeswoman said: “By this time anyway, the item had been eliminated from the inquiry because of the confirmation of the archaeological context in which it had been found.”
But she insisted that the development had not been kept from the media intentionally and was not highlighted because it would “distract” from the investigation.
She said: “Mr Harper, takes full responsibility for the decision to curtail the debate on the item which had already been ruled out of the enquiry and which would have indeed distracted attention from the victims of abuse.”
The spokeswoman said that the find was one of 20 possible bone fragments which have been found, along with six children’s teeth.
Tests on these items are still ongoing and results are expected later this week.
“At that stage we will know more about the possibility that there might have been unexplained deaths of children within Haut de la Garenne,” she said.
“In the meantime we continue to have well over 100 victims making allegations of serious abuse and our efforts are directed to obtaining justice for them as will as further investigating the finds at Haut de la Garenne.”
The care home was closed in 1986 and re-opened as a youth hostel in 2005 after a multi-million pound refurbishment.