Jersey’s police chief has been suspended after the high-profile investigation into possible child murders at the Haut de la Garenne care home was “ripped up” and dismissed as a shambles by his own officers.
In 2008 the former children’s home Haut de la Garenne on Jersey became a focus of global attention when police discovered what they believed to be fragments of a human skull.
The building, at that time a youth hostel, was dubbed “the house of horror” as scores of other bone fragments were unearthed and lurid reports surfaced that shackles, restraints, “punishment rooms” and a bath stained with blood had been found. The fear was that children, perhaps many, had been tortured and killed and their remains concealed.
Two years after the start of a covert investigation into abuse following allegations by former residents, 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 was under several inches of concrete in a stairwell in the north west corner at the back of the building.
Initially the remains were thought to date from the early 1980s, but police later said they were no longer part of the investigation.
Police now believe the fragment is not bone at all, but rather wood or possibly coconut shell.
Four underground “chambers” were found beneath the house, the first described as a room about 12ft (3.6m) square uncovered beneath two concrete floors.
Two spots of human blood, from which police hope they can extract a DNA profile, were found on a large, concrete, bath-like structure in one corner of the room. A “trap door” - a space in the floor above the cellar - was also found.
After clearing the first room police broke into a second underground “chamber”, three times the size of the first, and then into a further two “rooms”.
But on 12 November 2008 one of the senior officers brought in to continue the investigation declared said the so-called chambers were in fact just holes in the floor and neither dungeons nor cellars.
A piece of twisted metal discovered there was initially thought by police to be a form of restraint.
But the officers who took over the case said there was no evidence any of the material recovered was suspicious or had been used as a restraint.
Stained items, dozens of fragments of what were thought to be bone and 65 teeth were discovered, pointing to killings or unexplained deaths. Police said some bones appeared to have been cut and there was evidence of charring on some.
Police later revealed that the teeth appeared to have been from young children and had been “shed naturally”.
And what had been thought to be minute specs of blood on some items could not be positively confirmed as blood by forensics experts.
Police began excavating earth in the grounds of the house on 28 February, in an area that had also attracted the attention of search dogs.
Police found 170 pieces of bone in the area of the main building and the grounds.
All but three were from animals, police said on 12 November. They said the others might be human, but dated from the 15th Century to 1950 at the latest.
On 16 April police said they were excavating two pits following information from a man who said he had been asked to dig them in the 1970s or 1980s.
The first pit, away from the house, was about 1.5m (5ft) deep, with a large quantity of lime at the bottom. A police spokeswoman said at the time: “The inquiry team can think of no reason why this pit would have been created, nor why it was filled with lime. We would emphasise that we have no evidence of any motive.”
The second pit was near what was a boys’ dormitory.
At their briefing on 12 November, police said there was no evidence of any pits to bury children.
Chief Officer Graham Power was relieved of his duties by the island’s prime minister after a new investigation team rubbished suggestions that children could have been murdered or tortured.
The new investigation team said there was “nothing suspicious” about items found in cellars beneath the building, which included 65 milk teeth, and much of the information released to the public “was not accurate”.
“I am satisfied at this stage, along with other qualified and experienced senior investigating officers, that there is no indication and no evidence that there have been murders at Haut de la Garenne.”
Jersey’s Chief Minister, Frank Walker, announced he was suspending Mr Power, who oversaw the £4 million child abuse probe and authorised months of excavations at Haut de la Garenne, while an inquiry is carried out.
(Sources: various different articles. I just pieced them together for you fags’ reading)