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British police find major clues at Jersey house

©

Latest update : 2008-02-28

Police in Jersey said on Thursday they have found two items of "significant interest" while searching the cellar of a former care home at the centre of a child abuse inquiry. (Report: C.Norris-Trent)

Police on the Channel island of Jersey said Thursday they had made "significant" finds in the search for human remains in a cellar of a former children's home.
  
Search teams have been excavating areas in and around the Haut de la Garenne building in the east of the island following allegations from former residents that they were physically and sexually abused in subterranean rooms there.
  
Police dug up a child's skull and remains near the building at the weekend, and investigators managed to tunnel into an underground room on Wednesday and began the task of sifting through rubble and sand dumped there.
  
Deputy chief police officer Lenny Harper said: "We have made a couple of finds of some significance which tend to provide corroboration for some of the allegations that we have received about offences that were committed in the cellar."
  
Harper said they were "physical items", not household objects. He denied they included a concrete bath, as some witnesses have alleged, but refused to elaborate.
  
Police have already established the existence of a second bricked-up room and Harper confirmed that a witness had told police of a third underground chamber, although he said officers had not started to search for it.
  
"We're looking at the possibility of that at the moment," he said.
  
"We haven't found it but bearing in mind that we have directed all of our resources to the areas that we have examined, it's not going to go away."
  
Police would focus their efforts on the first room over the next few days before they attempted to gain access to the second cellar, Harper said.
  
Conditions underground meant it was a slow process which would take some time, he added.
  
Police have said a sniffer dog trained to detect human remains had an "extremely strong reaction" in one area of the first cellar, similar to when it located the child's skull.
  
The child abuse investigation at Haut de la Garenne involves more than 160 alleged victims over a 40-year period until the mid-1980s.
  
Police have received more than 70 calls since the human remains were discovered. Harper said many had only come forward after seeing others do so because they feared the repercussions.
  
The investigation extends as far as Australia and Thailand, where witness statements have been taken.
  
The island's former health and social services minister has claimed he was sacked from Jersey's governing council because he tried to expose "systematic" abuse of children.
  
Harper told reporters Thursday he had "no evidence whatsoever" of either a government or institutional cover-up, although he said child protection organisations "didn't deal with the matters as well as they should have done".
  
The case has shocked the beach-fringed British crown dependency which was once a mainly agricultural island and a holiday destination but has since become an international offshore banking centre.
  
Reverend Canon Dr Peter Williams, who led a special service in Saint Martin du Gouray church near the former home this week, told AFP it was unfair to rush to conclusions.
  
"There were a lot of dedicated people (working) in the home," he said.
  
A 60-year-old woman resident of Jersey, who asked not to be named, said: "We are really embarrassed by all this, especially because people here are not hiding anything. The situation is very sad."

Date created : 2008-02-28

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