Saturday

Haute de la Garenne, McCanns, Edddie and Keela, Operation Ore, and coverups


Home to something evil

What really happened at Haut de la Garenne, the children's home at the centre of the Jersey care scandal last year?

In Portugal, the dogs had crawled over a car used by Gerry and Kate McCann, and sounded the alarm. The Portuguese police then claimed that the McCanns had killed their daughter, when what the dogs had actually picked up on was both parents' legitimate proximity to death, working in hospitals.

Maddie's 'legitimate' bodily fluids found in McCann's hire car



Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report on a building that still houses some very dark secrets

How Jersey's tourism bosses must have lamented the marketing slogan they chose last year: "Small enough to really get to know, yet still big enough to surprise."

It was supposed to mark a campaign to rejuvenate the holiday business.

Instead, it served to highlight a child abuse scandal that erupted on the island.

The story had first trickled out in November 2007, gaining almost no press attention. Following a covert police inquiry into allegations of mistreatment in the island's care homes, police and the NSPCC in London had appealed to former residents to come forward. By January 2008, hundreds were said to have made contact, reporting physical and sexual abuse, mostly at Haut de la Garenne, a grim, Victorian industrial school that had, until the mid-80s, served as Jersey's main children's home. Soon, Jersey was in the grip of one of the largest police child abuse inquiries seen anywhere in Britain.

How would the tiny island and its 88,000 residents hold up? They pride themselves on their traditionalism (the pound note survives here) and an independent spirit that locals refer to as the Jersey Way. The mantra, reflecting a closed community that knows how to look after itself, is credited with transforming the place from a bourgeois bucket-and-spade resort in the 50s into the oyster-shucking tax haven it is today. So potent is the lure of the island's low-tax, non-intrusive regime that the level of wealth required of prospective settlers has risen to stratospheric levels: only those who can pay a residency fee of about £1m and show assets in excess of £20m need apply. The lucky few include racing driver Nigel Mansell, golfer Ian Woosnam, broadcaster Alan Whicker and writer Jack Higgins, as well as hundreds of reclusive tycoons, who have made the island the third richest compact community in the world, after Bermuda and Luxembourg.

And then February 2008 arrived like a fist in the face. All anyone on the outside looking in could talk about was paedophiles. Then Jersey police announced they were investigating murder as well as complaints of physical and sexual abuse: witnesses said they recalled seeing the corpses of children at Haut de la Garenne; others claimed to have found bones buried beneath the foundations.

What made it worse for those on the inside was that the crisis had been started by an outsider, a Northern Irish copper called Lenny Harper, second-in-command of the island's police force, and the antithesis of the Jersey Way. Instead of managing bad news, Harper had teams of forensics specialists excavating for it. Every day, sitting on a granite wall outside the home, Harper regaled the world's press with stories that "something evil" had happened there - Haut de la Garenne had been a virtual charnel house. The first find was a sliver of human skull on 23 February. As the investigation progressed, the supposed tally rose to "six or more" bodies buried beneath the home.

By August last year, Harper had retired, to be replaced by a new policeman from the British mainland. More experienced than Harper, detective superintendent Mick Gradwell was a veteran whose cases included the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers at Morecambe Bay in 2004.

At his first press conference, on 12 November, Gladwell stunned reporters with his findings: "There were no bodies, no dead children, no credible allegations of murder and no suspects for murder." Only three bone fragments could be definitely said to be human, he said - and they dated from the 14th to 17th centuries. Newspapers ran gleeful headlines: "Lenny Harper lost the plot." By the time we arrived on Jersey in February 2009, a year after the digging had begun, it was as if Harper and his inquiry had never existed.

The Jersey establishment was triumphant. One of the island's most senior social workers expressed a view we were to hear many times: "I'm not saying all the former children's home residents are liars but some have misremembered," he said. "Some have embellished and a small number have been telling porkies to get money." Nothing was wrong with the island. Jersey was off the hook. It was all a cock-up.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Among the thousands of statements that still line the shelves of Harper's old incident room, and in the testimony of former residents and workers at Haut de la Garenne and other institutions across Jersey, many of whom we tracked down and interviewed, harrowing stories are buried.

Read the rest of the article here
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Source: The Guardian
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Related links:
Senator Stuart Syvret blog
Of Tax Havens and Child Rapists
Senator Stuart Syvret: "It was the tooth-fairy what done it Sarge"

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Home to something evil