Jersey children's home hell: Victims of Haut de la Garenne tell their story
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Victoria Ward And Don Mackay 27/02/2008
Pamela's story : I was drugged, beaten and sexually abused ..what went on there was cruel, sadistic, evil
A woman who spent her early teens at the Jersey children's home yesterday told how she used to be drugged, beaten and sexually abused there. Mum-of-two Pamela, now 49, spoke out after it emerged that ankle shackles, stocks and canes had been found at Haut de la Garenne, once home to 1,000 vulnerable children. Pamela said that every night staff pulled cowering children from their beds and battered and raped them. She added: "The things that happened there are indescribable, the most cruel, sadistic and evil acts you could think of." She was among victims who have spoken out after a child's skull was found under a concrete floor at the home - known locally as Colditz.
Police fear more bodies may be buried there and six search areas have been pinpointed by a dog trained to sniff out human remains. Yesterday builder Robert Boutillier said: "We found some shackles lying around the grounds. "They were for children's ankles, you could see that. We also found a pile of about five large canes."
The courts sent Pamela to the home when she was 13 because her mother was violent towards her. She tried to escape several times and was seen as a "troublesome" child and given Valium to kill her spirit. She spent her time in dazed confusion. Her memories are hard to cope with but she believes that it was in this blurred state that she was violated.
She said staff were "predators". They would throw parties and invite outsiders. Pamela recalls: "We would try and lie still in our beds and not attract attention. They came and got kids and took them away for a while. Rape was rife in all ages, both boys and girls."
The teenagers would get cigarettes and booze from staff in exchange for sex. Pamela was regularly locked naked in a 10ft sq punishment cell for days for end. She was groped and beaten by a frightening 6ft man she believes was the home's deputy head, now dead. She said: "He was always sweaty and smelt of beer.
He would touch me sexually. He would slam me against a wall and say things like 'you're developing into a nice little woman, aren't you?'"
Male and female staff would abuse the children, grabbing their breasts or privates or spitting on them. Kids were encouraged to rape each other. Pamela said: What makes it worse is these acts were practiced on vulnerable and often troubled children with nowhere to go and nobody to turn to."
Pamela, who still lives in Jersey, has scars from where she cut herself in the hope it would end her torment.
She added: "I have blurry memories that still disturb me. I was stripped and male staff put their hands between my legs and held my breasts."
The staff took their favourites alone to beauty spots. One lad, Paul Fossey, was befriended by a priest. Pamela recalls: "He came to the home and told Paul he'd teach him to swim. They'd go out all day. But something happened. Paul changed. He became moody. He was never the same." He died from a heroin overdose five years ago.
Children would disappear and staff would say they had gone to a family or emigrated. No one would hear from them again. Pamela said: "If you kept asking where they had gone they would get angry. You kept your head down."
Pamela blew the whistle in 1974 but no one listened. A year later she was moved to a psychiatric unit and left when she was 16. Yesterday a card left with flowers at the local church read: "We children of Haut de la Garenne have waited a long time. We knew one day someone would listen."
Torture left me terrified to go to bed
Union worker Peter Hannaford, who grew up at the home, said he was abused almost every night. Peter, 59, said: "I was scared to go to bed. The abuse was anything from rape to torture. "It was men and women who abused us. It was dark so you would never know who it was."
Peter, who spent the first 12 years of his life at Haut de la Garenne, added: "You were threatened with punishment if you said anything, which could be a whip or anything." He said it has traumatised him and called for the building to be flattened. He added: "When all this came out it really tore me apart and brought back a hell of memories. You would be sleeping then your arms would be held down... Most of the time it was the other kids, encouraged by the staff. It was all the time, it was every night."
Fear made me twice try suicide
Married businessman John tried to kill himself after being sexually assaulted and beaten. He spent two years of hell at the home in the mid-1960s from the age of 12. John, 54, said: "It was just one long nightmare. "I was frightened to death most of the time."
He tried to escape and attempted suicide twice. He recalls being made to bathe with male friends every night. John added: "After drying ourselves, we were all made to stand in a line, naked," he said. Then predatory male staff would move on them. "He would walk along, inspecting our genitals, touching us. If any of us flinched, or tried to cover up, he would hit us across our privates with his stick.
My escape in leap out of window
Cyril Turner, 48, had been at the home for two weeks in the early 1970s when, as a 13-year-old, he jumped from a second-floor window to escape the regime of violence and fear. He said: "Some kids you saw again and some you wouldn't - we never really knew what happened to them. We were told a lot of them had run off and emigrated, which looking back was a bit odd. We were quite often given dead arms and dead legs by the staff. I remember being frog-marched around the place. If you were bad, you would get locked in a dark room with just bread and water. A lot of the staff there would be very physical - kids were thrown round a lot."