Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 17:46 UK

Jersey murder inquiry 'unlikely'

Pic by Christian Keenan
The former care home has been the centre of a major police investigation

Police in Jersey say a murder inquiry may never take place, despite the discovery of remains of at least five children at a former children's home.

They said such an inquiry was unlikely because an exact date could not be put on the remains, believed to have come from children aged four to 11.

However, they later insisted no final decision on the case had been made.

So far police have found 65 milk teeth and more than 100 bone fragments at the former Haut de la Garenne home.

About 100 people have alleged abuse dating from the early 1960s to 1986.

Burned remains

Police experts have said the condition of the teeth meant they could only have come out after death.

Two pieces of the bone fragments have been identified so far, one from a child's leg and another from inside a child's ear.

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Police have evidence the remains were burned, and that attempts were made to conceal them in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, who is leading the investigation, told the BBC: "We were pinning our hopes on the process of carbon dating."

But he said the results they had got back so far showed the remains could have originated from anytime between 1650 and 1950.

"The latest information we're getting is that for the period we're looking at, it's not going to be possible to give us an exact time of death," he said.

Valuable evidence

He added: "The indications are that if the results come back the same way as they have now, it is obvious there won't be a homicide inquiry.

"We cannot get away from the fact that we have found the remains of at least five children there.

"But at the end of the day there just might not be the evidence to mount a homicide inquiry in an attempt to bring anybody to justice."

However, Mr Harper said a number of valuable pieces of evidence had been found which "substantially corroborate" accounts of abuse at the home.

There were 18 key suspects in the wider abuse investigation and detectives were preparing to hand files on the priority suspects to island prosecutors, he added.

Jersey Police started an exploratory search of the home and made their first significant discovery on 23 February, finding what they believed to be a skull fragment.

It came two years after the start of a covert investigation into abuse following allegations by former residents.

'Systematic abuse'

Former Jersey health minister Stuart Syvret said it was important to remember the abuse that occurred at the home, even if there was no murder inquiry.

He said: "I know from speaking to survivors of the appalling abuse that occurred. The abuse aspect was quite appalling enough without children dying."

Mr Syvret was the Minister for Health and Social Services in Jersey until September 2007 when he was removed from his post.

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming told BBC Radio Four's Today programme he would be speaking to a government minister later on Thursday about the issue of the rule of law in Jersey.

In February Mr Hemming signed an early day motion in Parliament that said there was a lack of confidence in the ability of the island's authorities to deal with the abuse allegations.

Among the reasons given were the lack of separation of powers on the island and "the prevailing desire on the part of the Jersey elites to sweep scandal and abuse under the carpet to preserve their reputation".

"What is clear is that there are five cases where there is sufficient evidence to prosecute but the prosecution has been shut down in some form or other," Mr Hemming told Today.

He said there was corroborating evidence from witnesses that should be enough to mount a case, although it may not be possible to prosecute for murder.

"There are efforts to cover this up, I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said.




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