Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper standing outside Haut de la Garenne. He broke the “code of silence” in digging up dark secrets of the past. Photo: Jane Mingay
An “old boy network” of officials is deliberately obstructing police investigating decades of alleged abuse at care homes in Jersey, according to the police officer who spearheaded the inquiry.
He is convinced that someone deliberately concealed the bones and teeth of five children, perhaps after murdering them.
Telegraph | Aug 9, 2008
Jersey abuse case: ‘Old boy network’ is obstructing police investigation
By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper angrily hit out at the figures who he says have engaged in a “day by day attack” on the inquiry team and the alleged victims of abuse at Haut de la Garenne and other island institutions.
In his most outspoken criticism of the Jersey authorities, Mr Harper told the Telegraph: “I can quite clearly say that the investigation is being held up. There are people on the island who just don’t want us going down the route of this inquiry.”
Mr Harper, who handed over the reins of the investigation to his successor on Thursday and officially leaves the Jersey force at the end of the month, also revealed fresh details of why he is so convinced that someone deliberately concealed the bones and teeth of five children, perhaps after murdering them.
But he has effectively conceded defeat in the quest to discover exactly how the children died, and who might have killed them, as forensic tests have failed to establish how old the bones are.
“If the test results on the final samples are no more accurate, then the answer is that something very nasty happened in there, we don’t know exactly what, and because we can’t prove who or what it was there is no possibility of a successful homicide investigation,” he said.
Mr Harper has repeatedly said that because some of the 100 bone fragments had been cut, and because the 65 milk teeth found at the home had roots on them, meaning they did not come out naturally, children were either murdered or their bodies were illegally concealed.
But he has faced ridicule from some of the island’s politicians, one of whom nicknamed him Lenny Henry, and who will, no doubt, be pleased to see the back of a policeman who has dared to break what he claims is Jersey’s code of silence by digging up dark secrets from the past.
He said: “We have had problems dating the bones, but instead of people saying how unfortunate it is that the science can’t be of more help to us, the politicians are saying ‘this is a waste of time’. The fact that we’re trying to bring people to justice for awful abuse is ignored and it’s just a constant day by day attack on the inquiry and on the victims.”
Police currently have 80 names of people suspected of physical and sexual abuse at Haut de la Garenne, three of whom have been charged and are awaiting trial.
More suspects would have been charged by now, said Mr Harper, if it hadn’t been for delays in the island’s legal system.
“We are walking through treacle at the moment,” he said. “One file has been with the Attorney General’s office since April 29 and it’s still showing no signs of moving at the moment. It’s been very frustrating.
“I don’t think they are involved in child abuse, it’s more like an old-boy network.
“The ordinary people of Jersey are overwhelmingly in favour of the inquiry, but how many expressions of support and sympathy for the victims have we heard from the politicians? None. They don’t do sympathy for the victims.”
Mr Harper, who expects the investigation to continue for another year, rubbished reports that the bones and teeth found at Haut de la Garenne could have been brought in among rubble infill during building work.
He said: “They had been taken from one part of the building to another and put on top of the hard, compact, undisturbed original floor of the cellars. They had been spread about and covered with a thin layer of topsoil. Why would someone do that unless there was a deliberate attempt to conceal them?”
Mr Harper said tests on soot found with the bones showed they had been burned in a furnace in another part of the building, while archaeological evidence suggested they had been concealed in the 1960s or 70s.
“People might say these killings must have happened in the 60s, but there may have been someone who had been working there for 30 or 40 years, who knew that something had happened, but even then it might not have been a homicide, it could have been that children died of natural causes, accidents or suicide. We just don’t know.”
A spokesman for the States of Jersey said ministers had made public statements of sympathy for the victims and given “unlimited resources” to the police investigation. The Attorney General’s office denied there had been any deliberate delays.
William Bailhache, Jersey’s Attorney General, said: “It is absolutely incorrect to say that we have obstructed the administration of justice and quite improper to make such a comment.”