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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 01:23 GMT
Jersey care home 'full of fear'
Christine Bowker
Mrs Bowker volunteered at the home in 1972 but left in "distress"
A woman who worked at the former Jersey children's home at the centre of an abuse investigation has said she found children there "frozen with fear".

Christine Bowker volunteered for two months at Haut de la Garenne in 1972. She said the staff were "ice cold" and the children starved of affection.

She told the BBC she left over concerns about the "evil" goings-on in the home.

Excavation work has been ongoing since a child's skull was unearthed under a floor in a stairwell last Saturday.

Around 160 people claim they were abused at the home, in St Martin. The allegations date back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

'Sick people'

Mrs Bowker said there had not appeared to be any managers at the home when she was there, just six to eight staff who did not say a "civil word" to her and were very "rigid and controlled".

I recognised the children were absolutely ice cold and frozen with fear
Former worker Christine Bowker

"They totally ignored me and didn't speak much to each other," she said.

"They really looked like sick people - staring eyes and very tense. It was utterly grim.

"If the children relaxed at all or responded to my affection, they glared at the children and they glared at me, and the children then went back into their shells."

When asked if she witnessed any abuse, she said: "No, I didn't see anything like that but I recognised the children were absolutely ice cold and frozen with fear."

When Mrs Bowker, who now lives in Tasmania, tried to tell people about her suspicions, she said she was met with a "wall of silence".

Bricked-up chambers

The police investigation into abuse allegations began covertly in 2006.

Since the child's remains were found last week, dozens of people have come forward claiming they were abused while at Haut de la Garenne.

Interior view of cellar at Haut de la Garenne
The building's cellar has become the focus of the investigation

The search has been extended to the building's cellar and grounds, and police suspect there may be four bricked-up chambers in the cellar.

The first pictures of the cellar, released on Sunday, show a bath-like structure, which police say corroborates reports from alleged victims.

Excavations were halted on Sunday to give the forensic team a break but they are due to resume on Monday. The work is expected to take months.

Twelve detectives from forces across England and Wales have been called in to help with the investigation.



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First pictures of Jersey cellar



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