Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 16:33 UK

Jersey abuse warnings 'ignored'

Digger excavating at Haut de la Garenne
Panorama was given exclusive access to the police investigation
Allegations of abuse at Haut de la Garenne have caused shock both in Jersey and the mainland. However, the BBC's Panorama has uncovered evidence that warnings about this and another children's home were ignored.

A former staff member at Haut de la Garenne has told the BBC that his attempts to blow the whistle on sexual abuse at the home fell on deaf ears.

And the programme, which was given exclusive access to the police investigation and the forensic search, has learned that at two other homes on the island, staff, who were believed to have seriously abused children, were simply allowed to resign without punishment.

Paul Moed, who worked as a junior staff member at Haut de la Garenne, said: "I complained, others complained and, for some reason, they never took any action and that's just wrong."

Police referral

In one home, called Blanche Pierre, the house parents Alan and Jane Maguire subjected children to what a later inquiry called "gross acts of physical and psychological abuse".

Darren Picot
My arm was on the arm of the chair and she came along, pushed it down and it snapped
Darren Picot
Former Blanche Pierre resident

However, when two other members of staff raised their concerns with the Jersey authorities, there was no full independent investigation or referral to the police. Instead, the couple were simply asked to retire.

Mrs Maguire was then allowed to take up another job with the local authority, working with children and disadvantaged adults - despite protests from other children's service staff.

It was not until 1997, when other former residents of the home came forward with further allegations that the police were brought in.

Violent incidents

The case was dropped due to "insufficient evidence", but an inquiry carried out in 1999 exposed a catalogue of violent offences against children in the home.

Former resident Darren Picot, 31, told of one of the many violent incidents he experienced.

"I had done something wrong and she (Mrs Maguire) chased me through the house and I fell onto a chair," he said. "My arm was on the arm of the chair and she came along, pushed it down and it snapped. Then she covered it up by saying it was me just falling onto the chair."

Some nine years after the original complaints, Mrs Maguire was finally removed from social services.

Meanwhile, a member of children's services staff, who helped to investigate the Maguires in 1990, was himself the subject of a police investigation just months later.

The man, a staff member at the Heathfield children's home, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was investigated by police following sexual allegations relating to three boys at the home.

Although the police dropped the case, the head of children's services held serious concerns about the allegations. But again the member of staff was allowed to resign. He then moved to the mainland, where he worked with vulnerable youngsters and adults.

Secretive regime

Former resident Lisa Farrington, 31, who made allegations of sexual abuse about the member of staff to children's services, said: "All they told us was that he had gone to England and I thought 'How could they just let him go?'"

Former residents and staff at Haut de la Garenne also tell of a brutal and secretive regime.

Courtyard at Haut de la Garenne
A former staff member says he tried to raise the alarm in the 1960s

Kevin O'Connell spoke of the horrific ordeals he and his brother Michael were forced to suffer.

Remembering one particularly abusive member of staff, he said: "He would come into the dormitory, pull me out of bed, and pull me by the ears and frog march me down to the cellar, strip me and dump me in the bath and sexually abuse me.

"When he had satisfied himself he would wander off and leave me there. I often heard other boys screaming so there was something going on in another part of the cellar."

Warnings 'ignored'

Mr O'Connell is adamant that the trauma of the abuse his brother suffered at the home caused him to kill himself.

"I believe it just got too much for him and he hanged himself. He was just 14."

Mr Moed, who worked at the home as a junior house parent in the 1960s, told of how he tried to raise the alarm about the headmaster Colin Tilbrook's abuse of children - but claims his warnings were ignored.

He said: "I saw him in the dormitory one evening walking with a pillow under his arm. And I asked a colleague who he was and what he was doing and they said 'Oh that's Tilbrook, he carries the pillow so you can't hear the girls screaming'."

Mr Moed was then told that Tilbrook had recently got a 14-year-old girl pregnant and that she'd had to have an abortion. Mr Moed says that he went to the police - but that he was advised not to talk about what he had seen.

Deputy police chief Lenny Harper, who is leading the police investigation, said: "We have a number of victims' statements that say they did try in the past to report matters - and some of them were taken up, followed some way along the road - and some would appear not to have been dealt with properly at all."

Panorama: Jersey - Island of Secrets was broadcast on BBC One on 31 March at 8.30pm.

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