Jersey children's home hell: Victims of Haut de la Garenne tell their story

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."


No-Man's Land

I had wrongly assumed Jersey was part of the UK, (in spite of all the UK interest/coverage of this story)

According to wikipedia:

Jersey is part of neither the UK nor the European Union; rather, like the Isle of Man, it is a separate possession of the Crown. Jersey belongs to the Common Travel Area.


Jersey childrens home of hell

It is high time that the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes were brought to justice. Society has a huge role to play in this case and must demand justice for all those who were ill treated. The case has taken far to long to bring any outcome in my opinion. Perhaps they are waiting for all the old staff members to quietly pass away.


Voices from the grave

This is what I have learned since I first started writing about the secret-life of an adoptee:  no one cares unless it relates directly to his/her own experience.

Until safe child placement becomes a universal topic of interest, very little progress in the name of "better programs" will develop.

Meanwhile, you made a comment that reminds me of  the Open Records issue so many adoptees are fighting for:

Perhaps they are waiting for all the old staff members to quietly pass away.

EXACTLY.  Those touching and altering (falsifying) the facts of a child's life can't pay for their crimes if they are already dead, can they?  The politics of child placement is nothing but a Boy's Club that only protects members of it's own.  Maybe when the members of that brotherhood are dead and buried we can find real reform in adoption and child placement, but until then... by all means, let's keep "business as usual".

What fascinates me is the game of "protecting the innocent" and "public record" in our court-appointed world.  For instance, adopted people seeking the truth about their own history are given the following legal guidelines:

Adoption records less than 100 years old are sealed and cannot be opened for inspection except upon a court order. All requests to open sealed adoption files to obtain identifying information of adoptee or birth parents are initiated by filing a formal petition with the clerk of the court in the county where the adoption was granted.

A court order is required to have an adoption record open.  Only those adoption records that are over 100 years are open to public access.  When something gets quietly burried, sealed or hidden in darkness, one can be sure there's a story and secret that's being protected.

In some cases, the hidden pieces are bits of information.  In other cases, the hidden pieces are bits of a human body.  At what point does "full disclosure" and "exposure" mean anything to everyone?


I don't hide the fact that I am a  Christian and therefore some of my remarks and beliefs come straight from the Bible.
God says, "It is better for a man to have a rock tied around his neck and thrown into the sea than to harm one of God's
little children."  That's my paraphrase...
Don't for a second think that God does not see or care about each child that is stolen and placed for adoption in an abusive
home; it was NOT God's plan that there even be adoption like we see it today.  True, in the Old Testament there was adoption, BUT IT WAS WITHIN THE FAMILY!

If God did not care, where would I be in this mess?  And because He cares, I have FEAR/AWE of God and what He can do to
me if I abuse my children.  My husband is paying BIG TIME for his actions! 


Who dares to open the gates to hell?

Below is an update on how this case if being reviewed by one government:

There was a note of resignation in the statement yesterday by Lenny Harper, the deputy chief officer of States of Jersey Police, that there may never be enough evidence to mount a murder inquiry into the partial remains of five children found at Haut de la Garenne.

As a policeman who has been central to the painstaking efforts to sift and analyse bone fragments and teeth found in the cellars of the former children's home, Mr Harper is clearly eager to bring to justice anyone responsible for whatever crimes took place. As an employee of a government whose commitment to this investigation has been at best lukewarm, however, he knows that the case appears, for the moment, to have reached a dead end. His job, and that of the Jersey government, is to ensure that this case remains open and that the inquiry goes on.

To the public, things appear straightforward. Dozens of Jersey residents have testified that, as children sent to Haut de la Garenne, they suffered physical and sexual abuse and knew about punishment rooms in the cellars. A police investigation, the biggest mounted in the Channel Islands, has uncovered underground rooms and found disturbing evidence: a shallow concrete bath with blood on it and the words “I've been bad for years and years” scrawled on a wooden beam, the letter K written in black on a wall with whitewash covering the rest of the word, a total of 65 milk teeth and more than 100 human bone fragments, one coming from a child's leg and another from a child's ear.

In addition, a member of the public said that he had been told by staff to dig two holes near the boys' dormitory, and police have found in one of them a large amount of lime at the bottom. That is certainly enough to prompt the reasonable suspicion that horrific crimes, including murder, have been committed at the home.

Bringing specific charges may prove to be much more difficult, however. First, the timeframe being investigated ranges from the late 1940s to the 1980s, and the remains, which were burnt, cannot be carbon-dated. Secondly, there are no reliable reports of missing children during this time, as those sent to the home were often illegitimate, unwanted or were listed as simply having left for the mainland. And thirdly, although some 97 allegations have been made of abuse dating back to the 1960s, and more than 100 people listed as suspects, several potentially key witnesses are dead and there are no clear links between the abuse and murder.

The frustrations of the case have also been reflected in public attitudes. Many people in Jersey, especially at the start of the investigation, have been angered by what they see as attempts in Britain to disparage their system of justice, force the pace of the investigations and impose independent judicial control. A former health minister, a trenchant critic of the Jersey government's attitude, was sacked and Mr Harper himself is known to have been close to resignation over official reaction to the abuse inquiries.

The Jersey government should take a more robust stance over what has happened. For Britain, this is a delicate matter. The island, a Crown dependency, is not part of the United Kingdom and not subject to Home Office regulation. Ministry of Justice officials have held talks with those involved in the case and although there are ways of intervening - either directly or through the Privy Council - the British Government is extremely loath to do so or pre-empt the findings of an investigation still under way. But it should not be necessary. However baffling the case, it remains a homicide investigation. There is no reason to curtail or curb it. What happened in the dark cellars of Haut de la Garenne must be revealed, whatever the financial or political cost.

" What happened in the dark cellars of Haut de la Garenne must be revealed, whatever the financial or political cost."

Could a single statement ever have more truth?

And yet, what are the chances justice/convictions will be made from this case? 

Further complicating the identification process is that many of the children that were housed at the Haut de la Garenne were illegitimate, unwanted or were listed as simply having left for the mainland, so there are no records of their stay there to connect them to the skeletal remains.

Lenny Harper, Jersey's deputy police chief, admits that a homicide inquiry is not likely given the difficulties although he has not ruled it out completely as he says, "If the dating remains as inconclusive as what we have had so far, a homicide inquiry is unlikely. If the dating is more specific, a homicide inquiry is a possibility."

He continues on to say, "We cannot get away from the fact that we have found the remains of at least five children there."

There are 97 standing allegations, approximately 100 suspects, some said to be members of the island's "political and social elite." They have 18 suspects they refer to a "priority" suspects. [From the article, "Police Admit That Jersey Child Abuse Victims May Never Get Justice",

Seems to me protection goes to the politicians, and NOT the children who have fallen into their wicked system.

What you expect? It costs

What you expect? It costs less to sacrifice a child's life then to fix the problem and face the music and lawsuits that would be filed after... it's easier to make children pay for the price of this lie then to make the people responsible for this lie...

I mean so mnay public images would be ruined so many distinguished careers crushed..

The rich would rather save face and let kids be abused and worse.. then to take responsibility for their actions... these are the last people who should be running a government supposedly "for the people". The poor and their children are expendable when it comes to the reputation of government or those it employs...

Seems rich/government will just never change... they lack the overall intelligence it takes to do so despite the hundreds of thousands who comprise it...

Pound Pup Legacy