British children’s facility questioned

 

 

By The Associated Press

ST. MARTIN, Jersey – Cyril Turner has vivid memories of his time at Haut de la Garenne, a forbidding Victorian-era home for troubled children where a child’s skull has been dug up and where police fear they will discover the bones of more young victims.

None of Turner’s memories are good: He recalls beatings and a culture of fear that led to an escape attempt that ended in a car crash which landed him in the hospital for a year.

After decades of silence and shame, the truth about the imposing brown stone building overlooking the sea is slowly emerging as victims of suspected abuse speak out.

Turner, 49, is one of at least 150 people who have come forward to complain about physical, mental and sexual abuse they say was committed at the home before it closed in 1986.

All but a few have remained anonymous as a police investigation unfolds. Most of the victims came forward after authorities set up a confidential hotline in November as part of an investigation into accusations of abuse at the home in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

One victim, 59-year-old Peter Hannaford, told a local newspaper he and other children were raped nearly every night for several years. He refused to discuss his ordeal when contacted by The Associated Press.

“What they did to me was wrong,” said Turner, who was sent to the home at age 13 for repeated truancy and is now a father of four who lives in the Jersey village of St. Clement. “I was afraid every night and finally I did a runner with two older boys.”

The abuse allegations and grisly discovery Saturday of a child’s remains have punctured the idyllic image of this British island off the coast of France.

That has been replaced by grim images of Haut de la Garenne, an austere structure set on a cliff overlooking stormy seas, where victims say the people in charge treated children as captives to be tortured, raped and cast aside.

One suspect, a 76-year-old man, has been arrested and charged with indecent assault for allegedly abusing three young girls at the home from 1969 to 1979.

Police scouring the property said Wednesday that a dog trained to search for human remains picked up a “very strong reaction” – raising fears the grounds may conceal more gruesome secrets.

“It would appear as if the cellar is exactly as some of the witnesses … and victims have described,” Jersey deputy police chief Lenny Harper said, adding that an initial inspection showed there may be a second bricked-up room leading off the area.

The saga of Haut de la Garenne, began when it was opened in 1867 as an industrial school . Later it became known as the Jersey Home for Boys, though at times both boys and girls were housed there.The rundown home was shuttered in 1986 and the children were moved to other institutions. After an extensive renovation, it reopened in 2004 as a youth hostel.