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Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 16:49 UK

Jersey bones 'may suggest murder'

Jersey home search
Police teams excavated cellar rooms in Haut de la Garenne

Bone fragments found in the cellar of a former Jersey children's home had been cut, suggesting a homicide or an unexplained death, police say.

They said they had 70 suspects in their inquiry into claims, made by 116 people, of abuse at Haut de la Garenne between the early 1960s and 1986.

Seven milk teeth and 30 bone fragments have been found, some showing evidence of having been cremated in a fireplace.

But police did not announce a murder inquiry, saying more tests were needed.

'Unexplained death'

Deputy Chief Lenny Harper said there was "conflicting" information about the bones, particularly the age of the fragments.

This has prompted police to send all the fragments in the next few days to the UK for further testing.

Although all the evidence shows signs of homicide... they cannot pinpoint how old these human remains are
The BBC's Alex Bushill

"What is causing us some concern is that one or two of the bones are showing signs of being part of an unexplained death.

"In fact, one or two are showing signs of a potential circumstances which might infer a homicide in that some of the bones have been cut."

But he added: "This does not mean that at this present moment we are launching a homicide inquiry. We need to get further tests done."

He earlier said: "There is no doubt there are the remains of children in that cellar and no-one would expect us to walk away and leave it."

'No trauma'

He said five of the teeth - which had been recovered from "tonnes and tonnes" of rubble in excavated basement rooms - could "not have come out naturally before death".

Showing one tooth to assembled reporters, he said it was mainly root and there was "no sign of trauma" on any but one of the teeth. Experts had said they came from more than one child.

Deputy Chief Constable Lenny Harper describes the latest findings

"That would indicate that they were not pulled out in any medical procedure," Mr Harper explained.

Previously there were about 40 suspects, but Mr Harper said that had risen to 70.

"They will all be questioned and most of them will be arrested," he added.

He said there were 116 victims who were being investigated about claims of abuse while they spent time at the home between the early 1960s and 1986, when the home closed.

Mr Harper said the investigation had yielded a large amount of evidence which corroborates the victims' accounts.

'Distraction'

Mr Harper earlier this week defended his decision to withhold information about a "skull" fragment, which it is now believed to be either wood or coconut.

He said he thought disclosing doubts about the fragment would "distract from the inquiry".

No-one has been arrested in connection with the investigation, which began 18 months ago.

However, the investigation did uncover allegations of indecent assault against a former home warden, Gordon Wateridge.

He appeared before magistrates earlier in May, facing three charges to which he has yet to enter a plea.




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