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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 17:39 GMT
New focus in Jersey abuse inquiry
Police searches at Haut de la Garenne
Police are attempting to access a bricked-up cellar

A sniffer dog at a former Jersey children's home at the centre of an abuse inquiry has reacted "strongly" in a cellar search, investigators said.

Deputy Chief Police Officer, Lenny Harper said it was comparable to the discovery of a child's skull at the Haut de la Garenne home.

The dog was sent into a room in a bricked-up cellar that has been the focus of investigations.

Mr Harper said they had received 70 calls from people mentioning a cellar.

"It would appear as if the cellar is exactly as some of the witnesses who've made statements to us, and victims have described," he told reporters.

It's difficult to imagine the traumatic effect that this has had on victims
Deputy Chief of Police, Lenny Harper

Officers have gained partial access to the cellar, Mr Harper said, after structural engineers assessed the safety of the building.

It is thought there is a second area that is also bricked-up.

"We're going to have to gain further access to that, and will probably spend the rest of the afternoon preparing for that," Mr Harper said.

He explained he was "confident" about the dog's discovery but warned there "could well be an innocent explanation for what [it] may have found".

Mr Harper said he thought there would be arrests as a result of the police investigation - though not necessarily based on the forensic work at the building.

The main concern...at this time is to ensure that anyone who has perpetrated crimes against children...is identified and prosecuted
Frank Walker, Jersey States Chief Minister

The cellar is one of six areas at the site identified for further investigation by officers.

Their inquiries have so far uncovered a total of 40 suspects and prompted 200 phone calls from alleged victims and witnesses.

Mr Harper described how many of the alleged victims, who had come forward in the past few days, were very reluctant to speak because of their bad memories of the home.

"It's difficult to imagine the traumatic effect that this has had on victims," he said.

"There will be others who perhaps have been worried that they might not be taken seriously."

There have been calls for the UK government to intervene and deal with any civil and criminal cases.

Jersey: Crown Dependency
Crown dependencies are not part of UK
There are three: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man
They have their own governments
The States of Jersey is name of governing body
UK is responsible for defence
The Ministry of Justice in the UK provides link to the channel island

Labour MP Austin Mitchell has tabled an Early Day Motion saying that the States of Jersey has failed to deal with the problem of abuse.

The motion calls for outside judges to be appointed to carry out an independent inquiry.

The States of Jersey's Chief Minister, Frank Walker, has denied any cover-up in tackling the allegations.

In a statement he said: "The main concern...at this time is to ensure that anyone who has perpetrated crimes against children, or who has in any way colluded with that abuse, is identified and prosecuted."

Jersey is a Crown Dependency - it is largely self governing, although the UK Ministry of Justice provides a link with the island as some UK legislation is extended to it.



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