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Jersey carer convicted of sex attacks in Haut de la Garenne


By Vanessa Allen

The first man to stand trial over the Jersey children's home abuse scandal was today convicted of a series of sex attacks on teenagers.

Gordon Wateridge, a former 'house parent' at the Haut de la Garenne children's home, was warned he faced jail after he was found guilty of carrying out eight indecent assaults on teenage girls.

The 78-year-old, nicknamed 'The Perv' by his victims, preyed on the vulnerable children while they were residents at the home, made infamous last year following claims that human remains had been discovered there.

Haut de la Garenne was dubbed the 'Jersey House of Horrors' after detectives said that the remains of at least five children had been found, alongside so-called punishment rooms under the former children's home.

Police have since admitted that the tiny bone fragments may not be human, and could be hundreds of years old.

One fragment believed to have been from a skull was later revealed to have been a piece of wood or coconut.

The finds were uncovered during a year-long investigation into historical child abuse on the island.

More than 150 alleged victims told police they were abused at Haut de la Garenne and other Jersey homes between the 1940s and 1980s.

Wateridge, who worked at the home in the 1970s, was found guilty of eight charges of indecent assault against three teenage girls and one charge of assault against a teenage boy.

Jersey Royal Court heard he was a 'persistent sexual bully' towards his female victims, who were all under 16 at the time of the attacks.

They gave harrowing accounts of the abuse they had suffered at his hands and told the court he had taken advantage of his position of power to kiss and grope them.

One woman broke down in tears as she described how he repeatedly grabbed her and other girls as they walked past the home's snooker table, before pushing them onto the table and groping them.

The 53-year-old said: 'He was pretending to tickle me but from my point of view he was having a good feel. His hands would be moving up and down the inside of my leg.'

The woman, who was sent to the home after her father died, leaving her mother unable to cope, added: 'I was a girl of 13 or 14, he was a big man, I would be shouting to stop.'

She said she had not felt able to report the abuse at the time, saying: 'No-one would have listened.'

Another woman said she had felt 'dirty' after being repeatedly groped by Wateridge.

She said he once commented that she had 'child-bearing hips', and she told the court: 'It was not something you would expect an adult to say to a child.'

Judge Christopher Pitchers told Wateridge that he faced a custodial sentence after the jury's guilty verdicts were returned.

The pensioner, who had denied all the charges, was cleared of another 11 counts of indecent assault and one charge of incitement to indecent assault.

Wateridge, who was born in Croydon, South London, and now lives in Jersey, will be sentenced next month and was released on bail.

He had adopted a series of bizarre disguises to try to avoid the media as he arrived at court during the seven-day trial, hiding his face with a combination of scarves, baseball caps and wraparound sunglasses.

He was the first person to stand trial over the abuse investigation, although a second man, Michael Aubin, 46, admitted sexually abusing younger boys at Haut de la Garenne while he was a teenage resident there.

Aubin was spared a prison sentence after the court heard he had been the victim of serious sexual abuse by at least one member of staff at the home, which closed in 1986.

Speaking outside the court, Det Supt Mick Gradwell said the island-wide abuse investigation was continuing.

He said: 'Gordon Wateridge, a house parent at Haut de la Garenne, was a sexual bully towards vulnerable young girls in his care. 

'We hope the complainants involved in this trial have received some comfort from the decision reached by the court.'

2009 Aug 20