• News Feeds
Page last updated at 05:54 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 06:54 UK
Jersey's ongoing hunt for answers

By Sanchia Berg
Today programme

When the Jersey police announced back in February they had found "possible human remains" at a former children's home on the island, it made headlines around the world.

photo Christian Keenan
Police forensic teams at work in Haute de la Garenne

There was some controversy over the initial findings, but now that they have completed their searches at Haute de la Garenne, police say they have found partial remains of at least five children.

They have uncovered 65 milk teeth, which their experts say could only have come out after death.

And over 100 fragments of bone, of which two have so far been identified. One has come from a child's leg, another from inside a child's ear. Work to identify others is still going on.

But Lenny Harper, the deputy chief of police in Jersey, told the BBC that for the moment it's unlikely a murder inquiry will be opened. It has so far been impossible to date the remains precisely.

"We were pinning our hopes very much on the process of carbon dating," he told me.

I console myself with the thought that I have done what I can, my team has been absolutely superb
Lenny Harper

"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. The small number of bones that we've had carbon dated up till now have given us different readings.

"On one bone we were told there was a probability that they died in 1650 but also a smaller probability that they died in 1960."

Police have been investigating allegations of abuse at the home from the late 1940s onwards - many witnesses have given evidence of sexual and physical abuse in the 1960s and 1970s.

But Haute de la Garenne was built as an Industrial School in the late 19th Century - and Lenny Harper said it is possible the remains could date from that time. Though the police have other evidence indicating that the remains were burned, and efforts made to conceal them, in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

"So whilst that possibility does exist...then you have to ask why would people go to all the trouble of moving the bones, of burning them at some stage, and of hiding them in a different place and then of covering them up. We don't have answers to that, and that's part of the problem," he said.
Police picture of teams working in cellars
Police have been investigating abuse at the home from the 1940s onwards

Lenny Harper is retiring from the police very shortly. He told me he was disappointed to leave the case at such a stage, but he said: "I console myself with the thought that I have done what I can, my team has been absolutely superb.

"It's a great tribute to the skills of those that we had working up there that in the more than 150 tons of debris that we shifted out of those cellars that they found those items many of which are the size of your little fingernail."

Searching for human remains was only part of the police work at the site. They were also looking for evidence to corroborate allegations of abuse made by witnesses and victims - which they've done. Lenny Harper said there are currently over 80 suspects, with 18 "priority cases" well advanced.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific