Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 15:38 UK

Jersey 'bone' find now questioned

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

A piece of bone that sparked a massive police search at a former Haut de la Garenne children's home now appears to be a shard of wood or coconut shell.

Police on the island of Jersey have confirmed that forensic experts in Britain believe the discovery on 23 February is not a skull fragment.

The find was the first piece of significant physical evidence in a two-year-old probe into child abuse.

Police in Jersey say the latest twist does not affect their investigation.

The initial finding led to an extensive, ongoing search and excavation of the Haut de la Garenne building and surrounding grounds.

To date, more than 160 people who spent time at the home have come forward with claims of sexual and physical abuse between the early 1960s and 1986 when the home closed.

'Distraction'

The wider search across the complex has led police to what they believe are bone fragments and children's milk teeth buried beneath the old foundations of the building, although forensic testing is being carried out to confirm whether or not the 20 pieces of bone are human or animal.

The building most recently operated as a youth hostel.

In a lengthy statement released on Sunday, States of Jersey Police responded to allegations in a Sunday newspaper that the likely origin of that initial "bone" fragment was purposely kept from the media.

Police say the initial find - whether it turns out to be bone or not - had already been ruled out of their investigation after experts agreed that it dated from before 1940.

They say to highlight its origins would have distracted from their investigation.

The statement goes on to say that the officer in charge of the investigation, deputy chief officer Lenny Harper, "takes full responsibility for the decision to curtail the debate on the item which had already been ruled out of the enquiry and which would have indeed distracted attention from the victims of abuse".




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