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Jersey bone fragments 'could suggest homicide'


Anil Dawar

Detectives investigating allegations of abuse at a former Jersey children's home said today that bone fragments found in a cellar could suggest homicide.

The remains of bones, showing signs of having been cut and burnt, have been found, along with several milk teeth, at Haut de la Garenne.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the fragment that initially sparked the search in one of the underground chambers was believed to be more likely to be a piece of wood or coconut shell than bone.

Some media reports have attacked Jersey police for their handling of the inquiry, saying the island's deputy chief officer, Lenny Harper, deliberately withheld news of experts' doubts to avoid embarrassment.

Harper today defended his decision, saying expert opinion on the fragment was divided and that he had acted in the "best interests of the inquiry".

A total of 30 bone fragments and six teeth have so far been found in the cellars at Haut de la Garenne.

Experts have said five of the six teeth could not have fallen out naturally before death.

Ten of the bone fragments - including two that fit together – were found yesterday in "ashy soil and substance" near an area of the cellar where there was once a fireplace.

"A lot of the bones appear to have some degree of burning to them," Harper said.

"Some of the bones do indicate a homicide or an unexplained death. Our anthropologist has indicated certain features on one or two of the bones that we are looking at.

"There is no doubt there are the remains of children in that cellar, and no one would expect us to walk away and leave it."

Harper said different experts in the UK had returned conflicting test results when dating the fragments, making it difficult to know exactly how to proceed.

However, he promised a "bone-by-bone" account of what he had found when clearer lab results were returned to him.

He said the bones had been sent away for testing, and if the results showed children had died in the 1950s or 60s, or more recently than that, "we would say it is a homicide inquiry".

"If they are from the 1940s, or during the war, it may not be possible to proceed," he added. "If the bones are 150 years old, we are obviously not going to launch a homicide inquiry."

Haut de la Garenne became the centre of an abuse inquiry in February after the discovery of what was believed to be part of a child's skull.

Following the find, scores of people came forward to claim they were abused at the home.

Forensic teams subsequently uncovered a network of four secret underground chambers, where the teeth and bone fragments were discovered.

In other chambers, officers found shackles, a bloodstained bath and the message "I've been bad for years and years" scrawled on a wooden post.

Police have identified around 70 suspects or "people of interest" they want to question, although only one man has so far been arrested in connection with alleged child abuse at Haut de la Garenne.

Gordon Claude Wateridge, 76, originally from London, is charged with three offences of indecent assault on girls under 16 between 1969 and 1979 when he was a warder at the home.

A second man, 68-year-old Claude Donnelly, of St Brelade, Jersey, has also been arrested as part of a wider abuse inquiry.

He has been charged with raping and sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl on the island between 1971 and 1974.

Neither man has entered a plea.

2008 May 21