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Secrets and lies: the dark Satanic side of Jersey

The first sign to greet visitors to Gorey, on the east coast of Jersey, is a bright red plaque with white lettering that says, "Caution: Ducks crossing". Tripping over a duck is about the most dangerous thing you would expect to happen in this picture-postcard village, where the hotel tourist literature boasts of how safe the streets are.

Statue of the Devil in Jersey

Visitors are encouraged to explore the warren of backstreets which are pitch-black at night and consist, at this time of year at least, of empty tea rooms and restaurants serving the fresh "catch of the day" to the occasional tourist. High above, on top of the cliffs above the town's medieval harbour, Mont Orgueil casts its shadow, the 13th-century bastion built to protect the island from the threat of invasion from the French.

But now a much darker shadow looms over this village. Further up the hill, to the east of the castle, stands another historic building, a 19th-century grey stone structure built to house "young people of the lower classes of society and neglected children", which has become the setting of one of the worst cases of child abuse in the recent history of the British Isles.

The team mounting a painstaking forensic excavation of the Haut de la Garenne former children's home have pinpointed six more places where they think corpses are buried, in addition to the one set of child's remains they have already found. The police suspect that hundreds of minors were abused at Haut de la Garenne in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the most disturbing features of the grim tale emerging is the silence and the secrecy that has hung over the building for so long. The guilty had good reason to be quiet, but there are victims who have grown into late middle age on the island without telling what they knew, and political leaders who seemed to be lacking in any curiosity about what went on in that home on the hill.

But then, Jersey is an island of secrets, an anomalous place that is neither a country, nor part of another country, a tight-knit community of 91,000 now suffering the glare of unwelcome publicity.

The Bailiwick of Jersey has been linked to England constitutionally longer than Wales or Scotland have. It came with the Norman Conquest in 1066, as part of the William the Conqueror's personal estate. While England progressively lost its possessions on mainland France, finally giving up Calais in 1558, the Channel Islands stayed with the English crown. Victor Hugo took refuge on Jersey in the 1850s, when things were too hot for him in France.
The island – 100 miles south of Weymouth but only 12 miles from the French coast – has never been a colony nor is it classed an Overseas Territory, such as Gibraltar. Its archaic status is that of a Crown Dependency. The islanders have no representatives in the UK Parliament, pay no British taxes except for a "voluntary" contribution towards defence and diplomatic costs, and are not subject to English law.

Long after birching had been abolished on the mainland, it was still practised on Jersey. The death penalty was formally abolished only in 2006, though it had been in disuse since the 1960s. The island is governed by a 53-member legislature called the States of Jersey, headed by a Bailiff, and made up of senators, who are elected every six years, constables, and deputies. There are no political parties. Many islanders say that, except for the odd maverick politician such as the former health minister, Stuart Syvret, the island is a de facto one-party state.

This strange constitutional status has made Jersey one of the most pleasant places in the world for those who do not like to be heavily taxed, giving its wealthier residents a strong motive not to invite outsiders to look too hard at the island's affairs.

Since it is not in the EU, there is no VAT, although this year a 3 per cent tax on most goods and services will come into force for the first time. Income tax is capped at 20p in the pound. There is no capital gains tax, or estate tax. This, unsurprisingly, makes it one of the world's favourite locations for offshore banking, supported by a highly sophisticated infrastructure of trust companies, banking services, accountants, lawyers etc.

Until recently, you could put your money in a Jersey bank and be sure no one outside would know. Only in 2002, reluctantly and under threat of sanctions, the island agreed to join a scheme run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to share information on tax evasion.

Add to that the 730,000 tourists who arrive every year, and its buoyant farming industry, with thousand of tons of Jersey potatoes exported annually, and the island has, on paper, a higher per capita income than any other self-governing territory apart from Bermuda and Luxembourg. The 40mph speed limit that applies across most of the island has not stopped it from having the world's highest concentration of Porsche owners per head.

So the banks and their clients have their secrets. And then there is the past, with its memories of jackboots and occupation. The greatest trauma in the island's history, until now at any rate, was the Nazi occupation. Jersey and other Channel islands surrendered without a fight after Winston Churchill decided they could not be defended, and they became the only parts of the British Isles held by the Nazis. The absence of armed resistance has prompted suggestions that the islanders collaborated.

They certainly did as their occupiers told, offering only passive resistance that included listening secretly to the BBC, but there was a particularly heavy armed German presence, and unlike other occupied states, Jersey had no pro-Nazi movement. Its small Jewish population was singled out for revolting persecution, but no islander was ever accused of helping the Nazis to track them down.

And there are stories of heroism, notably the case of the physiotherapist, Albert Bedane, to whose house Erica Richardson, a Dutch Jew, fled after she had given her German guard the slip in June 1943. The Germans combed St Helier for her, and Mr Bedane risked execution by hiding her until the island was liberated almost two years later. He also sheltered an escaped French prisoner of war and Russian slave labourers, on the principle that he "might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb".

But one secret that was buried for years was the fate of the "Jerseybags" – the women who had sexual relations with German soldiers – and the children born from these relationships. Documents released in 1996 suggested that there may have been 900 such babies. One of the documents referred to a building called the Westaway Creche, in St Helier, which was said to be "full up with those little bastards". What became of them has been kept secret. Some are thought to be still living on the island. "The effect of German occupation on the Jersey psyche cannot be underestimated," says the Very Rev Bob Key, the island's dean.

 "Barely a week goes by that there isn't an occupation story in the Jersey Evening Post. The memories are very much alive, and each year when I hold a Remembrance Day survey I realise just how vivid those memories are."
Few people are willing to give their names when speaking to the myriad reporters who have descended on Jersey since human remains were first found at Haut de la Garenne over the weekend.

Many inhabitants are prepared to offer reasons why they believe the politicians are corrupt, or whether there has indeed been a cover-up over the child abuse allegations but few speak openly about it. Stuart Syvret, a lone voice among Jersey politicians, has claimed there is a culture of cover-up and concealment.

"There's a great feeling of solidarity on this island so it's not really surprising that people are not happy to talk openly," admitted Brian Lawrence, who came to the island in 1962 and has lived in St Helier ever since. "It's never really been a transparent island and we're fiercely proud of the way we rule ourselves. But it does make me uncomfortable to think that some of the people who might have carried out the abuses at the hostel are probably still living on the island today."

The Rev Lawrence Turner, whose parish church at St Martin's is one of those nearest to Haut de la Garenne, believes the child abuse scandal will force the islanders to do some painful soul-searching. "If you are a certain way inclined, the island can easily feel very claustrophobic," he said. "Say you were a social worker at Haut de la Garenne and you saw someone kicking a child, who do you tell? Whistleblowing is not exactly the most popular activity round here.

"I'm not necessarily saying Jersey is worse than anywhere else but it's not like whistleblowers can just up sticks and leave the local community as you can on the mainland.
"I've always joked that if you sneeze on your arrival at the airport by the time you get home there'll be a coffin waiting for you. Word and rumour travels fast. But the darker side to that is that there is a real feeling we shouldn't wash our dirty laundry in public."

He added: "There was shock when the abuse allegations came to light and a stunned silence when the bodies started to be uncovered. But that shouldn't be interpreted as islanders not caring; they are just utterly shocked by the scale of all this. There's going to be a lot of healing and I think we're only at the beginning."

Grim hunt ... courtyard in centre of building is focus of the police search

AS the search continued for human remains, the background noise was of skeletons rattling in Jersey closets.
The island’s people were searching their collective conscience as questions began over whether there had been a cover-up of decades of child abuse and, if so, how many people were involved. 

The same dogs used in the hunt for Madeleine McCann have been brought in to identify possible burial sites, but it doesn’t take a sniffer dog to know something stinks at the heart of this island.
A police probe into child abuse going back several generations was made public last year.
Lenny Harper, the island’s deputy police chief, said: “Police officers became concerned at the number of people in positions of authority being connected with paedophile crimes.”
If there was a big conspiracy on an island with just 88,000 people, most may know, or know of, someone involved. 

The discovery of the remains echoes of 1973 cult horror film The Wicker Man, in which a Scottish cop investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a Hebridean island whose population follows a bizarre pagan cult. 

MURDER cops were last night breaking into a DUNGEON where bodies are feared to be buried in the former care home at the centre of an alleged child abuse conspiracy.


Beast ... evil Edward

A dog trained to sniff out human remains has identified hotspots above the bricked-up cellar — in which terrified youngsters would be thrown into solitary confinement.
And it emerged that a sex fiend dubbed the Beast of Jersey visited the children’s home dressed as Father Christmas.
It follows the discovery of a child’s skull at the Haut de la Garenne mansion on the holiday isle. A criminal investigation was also underway into claims of a cover-up of the scandal by police and government officials. 

Around 40 suspects, mainly ex-care workers, are to be grilled amid reports of appalling sexual and physical abuse going back decades. 

A former inmate said FLOGGINGS for misbehaviour were so brutal that a boy’s finger was cut off by a cane. And a top cop said the current investigation has been dogged by OBSTRUCTION from locals. 

Drilling machinery is being used to uncover the grim secrets of the Victorian building — once used to film police station scenes in the Jersey cop TV series Bergerac.


Forensic teams are also focusing on a number of suspected graves under an interior courtyard, where children were drilled and forced to march for hours on end.
Around 150 ex-inmates have now come forward claiming they were attacked at Haut de la Garenne, mainly in the 1970s and 1980s.

Evil ... rape outfit worn by Edward

Crucially, three former victims, two men and a woman, told police that bodies were buried there.
Notorious paedophile Edward Paisnel — the Beast of Jersey — was a frequent visitor to the home in the 1960s. He was known as “Uncle Ted”, handing out sweets and toys to groom kids, and dressing up as Santa. 

The builder was jailed for 30 years in 1971 for 13 sex attacks spanning 11 years.
He terrorised the island, climbing into bedrooms to assault children. Paisnel, who died in 1994, was obsessed with black magic and wore a rubber mask and nail-studded bracelets during his attacks.
It is alleged that during the brutal regime at Haut de la Garenne, children as young as six faced beatings and confinement in the “dungeon”. 

Ex-resident Frank Lewis was so appalled by his experiences that before dying in 1979 he wrote a harrowing account. In it he recalled boys being forced to wash 25 at a time in a huge stone bath. 

He said: “Any boy who failed to remove every trace of dirt was ordered, naked and trembling, from the water to be flogged or kicked. 

“On his first day a new headmaster came in with a cane and a Bible — and told us that he didn’t rule with the former but with the latter.
“Within a week he’d flogged me until I bled in front of the whole school and cut off a boy’s finger with a sharp cane.” 

Islander Kenny Le Quesne described brutal beatings during the 1960s. He said: “My mother sent me there after she caught me stealing money from her purse. Within hours of arriving, I ran away. When I returned, the principal beat me with a birch.”
Stanley Ballard, 74, was at Haut de la Garenne for ten years after his mother died when he was six. He recalled: “If we were naughty we would be put into solitary confinement.

Bully boys ruled the home. But I’m very lucky I wasn’t there in the 1960s — I heard some horror stories. There are some gruesome tales. I’m surprised they haven’t surfaced earlier.”
The detective leading the murder hunt, Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, said officers had drawn up a list of possible missing children who may be among victims at the home — dubbed Colditz by kids. 

Mr Harper went on: “Efforts are being concentrated on the cellar, which has been bricked up. We’re having problems getting in. There seems to be some sort of backfill. A dog indicated a number of areas.” 

It could be a fortnight before excavations are complete. The inquiry was triggered two years ago when cops linked a string of paedophile inquiries to the home.
The skull of a child, believed to be a teenager and to date from the 1980s, was unearthed beneath a corridor at the weekend. Among the remains was a girl’s hair clasp, a button and a piece of fabric. 

In 2003 builders found bones next to children’s shoes at the home but police said they were an animal’s. 

There have been no arrests so far. But Deputy Chief Harper, a former RUC and Scotland Yard officer, added: “We have had some resistance and some obstruction.
“Not from official departments but from people who perhaps were working at the home. A lot of the victims tried to report their assaults. For some reason they were never dealt with in the way they should.” 

The home opened in 1867 and closed in 1986. It is now a YHA youth hostel
. Jersey’s Chief Minister Frank Walker said: “Protection of children is our highest priority

Disqus for Ste Matthew Murray


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