|This case was outlined at this year's Ipce meeting as an example of UK police tactics in investigating alleged historical abuses in children's homes.|
Jersey abuse investigation
Police rule out any murder at care home
|Force's chief suspended and inquiry launched|
|Human bones at site could date back to 15th century|
Helen Pidd, The Guardian 08-11-13
Jersey's most senior police officer was suspended yesterday as detectives concluded that no children had been murdered in the former care home at the centre of a £4.5m investigation into child abuse.
Graham Power, Jersey's chief of police, oversaw the historic abuse inquiry into the Haut de la Garenne children's home. In February police announced that they had found the "potential remains of a child" buried under the Victorian building and about £1.5m was spent on excavations.
But yesterday the new officer directly in charge of the case said there had never been compelling evidence to justify the excavation, and much of what was found there did not suggest murder, contrary to initial police reports.
None of the suspicious items discovered at Haut de la Garenne, including "shackles" and "restraints", a bath allegedly stained with blood and fragments of what were initially said to be human bones and teeth, indicated murder, said Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell at his first press conference since taking charge of the investigation.
Of the 170 bone fragments found at the site, scientific analysis has proved that only three could be human; two of those might date back as far as 1470, and the other to between 1650 and 1950, said Gradwell.
Graffiti found in a cellar under the house, which read "I've been bad 4 years and years", had been scrawled on a post that was only added to the building in 2003, when it was being turned into a youth hostel.
"There are no credible allegations of murder, there are no suspects for murder and no specific time period for murder,"
said Gradwell, who took over the case in September after the retirement of Lenny Harper, the first investigating officer and Power's deputy.
Gradwell reached his conclusion after completing a review of the case with independent officers from the Metropolitan police. He said he had begun to have doubts about the way the inquiry was heading just 48 hours after taking up his position on September 8 this year.
He stressed, however, that he was still taking very seriously wide-ranging allegations of serious sexual abuse at Haut de la Garenne and at other care institutions on the island.
So far two men have been charged with committing sexual offences at the home.
Graham Power, the island's chief police officer, was suspended yesterday by Andrew Lewis, Jersey's home affairs minister, as an inquiry was launched into what went wrong with the police investigation.
"It is evident that we didn't receive all the information about the historic abuse inquiry that we should have received, and that some aspects of this critically important police investigation have not been conducted properly. We are determined to find out why this happened and who was responsible."
David Warcup, the new deputy chief officer of Jersey's police force, who became acting chief of police after Power's suspension yesterday, said:
"It is unfortunate that information was put into the public domain about certain finds at Haut de la Garenne that was not accurate. I very, very much regret that this has happened."
"I think it's fair to say that the issue of Haut de la Garenne has distracted from the main inquiry."
So far, £4.5m has been spent on the inquiry from a total of £7.5m that was earmarked by Jersey's government for the investigation.
Gradwell's predecessor, Harper, became a fixture in the media in February when he gave daily briefings on the case. As recently as July 31 he gave interviews saying detectives had found the burned and scarred remains of at least five children aged between four and 11.
Though the police continue to investigate allegations of sexual abuse, Warcup said there would "certainly" not be nearly as many prosecutions as previously reported.
"It might not even reach double figures," he said yesterday.
In July, Harper said he was investigating allegations against 100 suspects.
Yesterday, Harper insisted he had done nothing wrong. He told Sky News:
"We brought hundreds of victims out into the open ... and I think the victims are in danger of being forgotten here. They are the ones crying out to be heard. We gave them that voice.
"I did a job which highly professional police officers from the UK with experience in these type of investigations looked at every step of the way and supported what we were doing.
"So I need to defend myself and I am quite happy that when it all comes out in the wash that what we did will be seen in the context that it was."
Senator Stuart Syvret, a former minister for health and social services, who campaigned for transparency over the allegations, said that yesterday's press conference was
"calculated to divert and distract attention away from the imminent publication this Friday by the Howard League for Penal Reform of their report into youth justice and child custody practices in Jersey during comparatively recent years".
Syvret said he had read parts of the report which were
"utterly damning" of child protection policies in Jersey.
He said yesterday's press conference was being held
"to attempt to smear and rubbish the work of Lenny Harper and attempt to justify the dismissal and abandoning of certain aspects of the Haut de la Garenne investigation, including the possibility of child deaths having occurred there, and certain of the more serious abuse claims".