Article from the Sunday Times Magazine 10/05/2009
As one dissident Jersey politician who wished to remain nameless said to me when we huddled together one lunch time in a cramped St Helier cafe, you might have thought Jersey — its politicians and civil servants, its police force, its tourist industry — had something to celebrate when the police concluded that there had been no murders at Haut de la Garenne, the now-notorious children’s home.
Good news at last! Nobody died! Jersey’s reputation is restored. Well, perhaps that last sentiment might have been taking things a bit far, especially bearing in mind what you are about to read, but still, no news was good news, up to a point… Weeks of digging, dog sniffing, soil sifting and bone-fragment analysing had resulted in what appeared to be a clear verdict: no bodies at the old children’s home.
So perhaps it is now time for the perpetrators of the abuse to be brought to justice. We know who they are, the police know who they are, the authorities know who they are. So what is holding things up?
While the media had been fixated on Haut de la Garenne’s cellars, the police inquiries had been wide-ranging. As part of their investigation, they examined the accusations of abuse and cover-up that had reached into the heart of the Jersey government. Many of those accusations are being made public for the first time here, and while we are bound by laws that prevent us naming names, we know the identities of those said to be involved. We do not know why they have not been charged, and that is exactly what the alleged victims would like to know too. The victims have been waiting for action since November, just over eight months after the digging had begun at Haut de la Garenne. We know there were no bodies, but it still seemed the inquiry should move forward. Nobody could have guessed what would happen instead.
On November 12 last year, the media were summoned to a press conference at police headquarters, where one team of senior police officers proceeded to launch an unprecedented attack on the work of another, effectively accusing the former head of the inquiry, Lenny Harper, of misleading the world with inaccurate, sensationalised claims of multiple homicides, and of wilfully misrepresenting the evidence he had found during the searches at the former home.
Harper had been the senior investigating officer for the child-abuse inquiry until he retired, as planned, in August. He had also served six years as deputy chief officer of the Jersey force, second in command to Graham Power, the chief officer who was still just over a year away from retirement, and a recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service. Harper and Power must have been doing something right: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary had assessed the Jersey police as an efficient organisation with strong leadership.
That morning, while Harper’s work was being traduced in front of the press, Power had gone to a meeting with the then Jersey States home-affairs minister, Andrew Lewis. The chief executive, Bill Ogley, was also there and took notes. Notes he later admitted he had destroyed. Power had been summoned to the meeting in a call by Lewis the previous evening, without being given any idea what the theme of the meeting would be. He was told that the Jersey Council of Ministers — the equivalent of the cabinet — had been briefed by his own police colleagues the night before and the content of the briefing had been so bad they had no option but to suspend him. The officers who had given ministers the briefing were the same two officers who were just then delivering the stinging judgment on Harper to the media.
Power said that he refused an offer to take an hour to consider resigning. He was then handed a letter that referred to an earlier meeting when he had been warned he faced the suspension that was now being put into effect. There had been no earlier meeting. It looked like an unsubtle, outrageous attempt to belatedly satisfy a disciplinary code. Power returned home and was still there at the time of writing this article; he has just won the right to have a judicial review of his suspension.
I had written in detail about the child-abuse inquiry last year. I had never given much credence to the more lurid tales of possible homicides, mainly because I had been counselled against them by Lenny Harper. There were no missing children, he said, clearly and often, and there was no evidence of murder. I knew, too, that Harper believed he was engaged in a struggle with vested interests among Jersey’s ruling elite, who were trying to undermine the inquiry and would rather the whole thing went away. It soon became apparent that allegations of abuse were widespread throughout the Jersey childcare system and had been around for years, but only a handful of the most blatant cases had ever reached court.
When I looked at the story again, I found allegations that point to years of systematic abuse among a loose structure of suspected abusers. Meanwhile, the officers who replaced Lenny Harper have continued to brief against him, off the record, and to minimise or downplay the extent of the claims. In two specific cases the alleged abusers were men who had risen up through the care-home system, where they were said to have ruled by terror, to become high-ranking officials of the States of Jersey. Both men stand accused of numerous assaults. The Sunday Times Magazine knows their identities — half of Jersey knows who they are — but we are forced by law to protect them from public exposure.
One among many of the two men’s alleged victims is Rickie Tregaskis, who claims to have been subjected to endless assaults and abuses while a teenager in a Jersey care home: being made to lie naked on a mattress every night for two weeks in front of a female member of staff; being made to stand in the dining room while one of the men poured food over his head; repeatedly punched and knocked about by that same man, and once having his nose broken by him. At least three of Tregaskis’s peers from the home committed suicide or died young of drug abuse. Others have led chaotic lives, often in and out of prison and/or psychiatric care. Tregaskis himself is serving life for the violent murder of a disabled man in Cornwall in 1997. “In a way,” Tregaskis had once written, not without bitter irony perhaps,
“I have to thank people like him [his abuser] for teaching me discipline and refining my later life talents.” So, while there may be no bodies at Haut de la Garenne, make no mistake, there is certainly a trail of corpses across the wider inquiry.
Since Harper retired, there have been no new charges against alleged perpetrators. Only three people face trial for abuse, and one of those is nothing to do with Haut de la Garenne or any childcare institution. In one case, the charges went ahead only because Harper pretended he had not received a last-minute message from a senior official trying to stop the prosecution going ahead.
The police are now hinting that there may be few, if any, further charges. I heard that one officer is saying he has “bad news” to deliver to alleged victims — the bad news being they may never get their day in court. The officer clearly believes, or wants us to believe, that Harper is to blame for raising expectations and misrepresenting the evidence and the scale of the abuse. Is this true — or are Harper and Power being made scapegoats?
The claims of misconduct, incompetence and self-interest against Harper are so many that it is difficult to know where to start. His replacements certainly have it in for him, letting it be known they think he has lied and jeopardised future prosecutions with his public pronouncements.
During the inquiry he sought and acted on a great deal of external advice, and was told by a security department of the Metropolitan police not to maintain “day books” that could be read by others. So, no daybooks, only a diary in which, he says, he kept personal records relating to his wife’s illness and other matters unrelated to the inquiry.
During the press conference, and in subsequent briefings and interviews, Jersey police have sought to create the impression of Harper as a maverick, bullying figure. Yet, far from going it alone, Harper early on sought the advice and support of the homicide working group of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), who sent a team of three officers to Jersey to monitor and review the inquiry. The team was led by one of the country’s most eminent detectives, André Baker, now a deputy director at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). The others were Anne Harrison and John Mooney of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).
If you mention this team to the new Jersey police, they will say they were not there to review the inquiry and only had a limited role. This, so far as I can tell, is not true. I have seen the team’s terms of reference, and they clearly state that its role was to “quality assure” the investigation. They did indeed make many recommendations, and all were implemented except, by mutual agreement, two or three that were deemed not relevant.
The team made four visits. Its role was to “monitor the 27 recommendations, to maintain the role of mentors, and to identify any further work”. Later it reported: “The recommendations from the initial visit have been acted upon, some within a very short period. The States of Jersey Police are to be commended for their positive reception of the report and for their extremely prompt response in implementing recommendations.” Two team members also gave a private briefing to Frank Walker, the then chief minister, and some of his most senior colleagues, which would have presented another opportunity to report concerns. There were none.
Harper first contacted Acpo on February 23 last year, the day of the discovery of the now notorious fragment that was initially considered by the forensic anthropologist who found it as having the appearance of a small piece of a child’s skull. The inquiry was then in the fourth day of what might be called a recce, a preliminary dig to see if anything would turn up. This approach had been agreed at a conference Harper had organised with the NPIA and scientists from LGC Forensics in Oxford, where the discussion took place. If they did not find anything, they would pack up and leave, but if anything significant turned up they would start a more thorough search.
The decision to start digging was not taken idly. Haut de la Garenne had cropped up repeatedly during other earlier child-abuse inquiries, touching on a number of organisations such as the Jersey Sea Cadets, St John Ambulance, Victoria College and the St Helier Yacht Club. Haut de la Garenne was a common thread. One of Tregaskis’s two alleged abusers had also worked there before going on to manage the residential home where Tregaskis lived during his time in care. Those two alleged abusers are linked to a series of allegations. One victim claims he was punched by both men; another that he was punched by one of them; still another that he was punched and stamped on by the other man. This victim also claimed to have been “pinballed” — bounced around the walls of that official’s office — by that official, punched to the floor by the other man, assaulted by both regularly. He also witnessed the second man hit another boy, now dead, with a cane so hard that he drew blood. Another resident saw someone assaulted by a third member of staff before being dragged by the second man into his office to be “pinballed”. He later emerged marked and bruised. In one further case, a victim claims to have been punched and kicked for 20 minutes by the second man while the other one was there, and also took part in the assault by kicking the boy. This same boy saw two other fellow residents being “pinballed”, one after complaining to his mother about an earlier assault. A boy also said he was picked up by his ears by the official before being punched in the stomach. A witness watched as that same man punched a boy in the face after pinning him against the wall by his throat.
Neither of the men has ever been charged over the allegations, though The Sunday Times Magazine is aware that the police have assembled a file of statements from both alleged victims and witnesses to incidents of abuse. The police say the inquiries are continuing. Let’s not hold our breath.
A former employee at Haut de la Garenne is Jane Maguire, who went on to run the care home Blanche Pierre with her husband, Alan. A case against them for alleged physical abuses reached court in the late 1990s before collapsing for lack of evidence, even though a number of alleged victims were ready to give evidence and some of the more routine abuses had actually been recorded in a daybook. A court official said the correct procedures had been followed before the decision to throw out the charges.
The victims were told about the collapse of the Maguire case at a meeting attended by a senior childcare officer, who was himself a former volunteer at Haut de la Garenne and who had left the police force to join social services. This man’s name is also known to The Sunday Times Magazine and to the police. There are claims he failed to act on several occasions after children reported allegations to him, and also that he abused them himself. He had first been arrested and questioned in 2003. He was not charged.
A second claim of assault did not result in any charges either. He has always denied the allegations. He was arrested for the third time last year over three fresh claims of assault, one on a female, two on boys.
I have also learnt the name of a man whose identity was protected during a 2004 trial in Jersey when he was the victim of blackmail. The alleged blackmailer, Raymond Duchesne, claimed to have been repeatedly sodomised between the ages of 6 and 10 while he was in care at Haut de la Garenne by the man he was now trying to blackmail. After some debate, the court agreed to accept the allegations were true, for the purposes of the case. The man, a volunteer at Haut de la Garenne, used to take children out on boat trips from the St Helier marina — a recreational activity common to many Jersey abusers. Andrew Jervis-Dykes had adopted it while he was a maths teacher at Victoria College, taking teenage boys out on sailing trips as part of Combined Cadet Force training. Jervis-Dykes was eventually jailed for six indecent assaults between 1984 and 1991.
There were suspicions that others might also have been involved in sexual assaults alongside Jervis-Dykes, but when one officer tried to investigate at the St Helier Yacht Club, he was hindered by a higher-ranking colleague. That officer, who has since retired, was known to other abusers.
The Jervis-Dykes inquiry in the 1990s was reportedly plagued by internal obstruction and claims that exhibits were going missing. Three junior detectives were so troubled by the obstacles being put in their way that they went over the heads of their team leaders, including the officer with his own boat, to report their concerns to senior colleagues. There was no action, but the suspicions lingered. Then the name of the officer turned up in text messages between two civilians accused of indecent assaults on boys. He appeared to have leaked information to them, and the two paedophiles agreed he was “one of the boys”. One of the two men, David Powell, was convicted and jailed for 3Å years in 2007. His co-accused, Paul Romeril, was suspected of around 60 offences of serious sexual assault on boys, most of which had taken place on his two boats. Romeril hanged himself while on remand at Jersey’s La Moye prison. Two other suspects in the inquiry were not charged. Meanwhile, long before Harper took an interest in Haut de la Garenne, other officers had been concerned by allegations, and one of them produced a report proposing further inquiries at the former home. Duchesne’s alleged abuser was the subject of a number of allegations of vile abuse.
Nobody should be in any doubt about the extent and seriousness of the crimes being considered: in one claim he was abusing a boy who was draped over the side of the boat, the abuse so violent that the boy’s head was bobbing in and out of the water while the offence took place. The report was passed on to a senior police officer in early 2006, but it was ignored until Harper’s inquiry began. The officer who had produced the report at one stage asked his superior what was happening and was told: “I haven’t got to it — other priorities.” An outside force was brought in to consider the officer’s conduct in sitting on the report. That was early last year, involving officers from South Yorkshire. This all formed the background to the beginning of Harper’s own inquiries at Haut de la Garenne.
Harper has since been challenged that the supposed claims of dead or disappeared children came from unreliable witnesses and should not have been given credibility. Many of the victims told me that they have been trying for years to get someone to take their claims seriously. They had never felt listened to or believed until Harper came along. I don’t imagine, however, that Harper was driven by sentimental regard for the victims. As he told me in March 2008, and is still saying now, he could not ignore the information, but did not at first believe it warranted a full-scale dig. Hence the recce. The dog was brought in. The cadaver dog that alerts to human remains, the same dog that nearly did for Kate and Gerry McCann after it alerted at the boot of their car. Unlike the Portuguese police, apparently, Harper’s team understood that the dog’s alerts were not evidence of a crime being committed, merely an indicator of something to be explored. I have heard that Harper’s replacements have spoken cynically about the dog, implying that its handler, Martin Grime, fixes the dog’s demonstrations by priming it in advance with his own scent. But Harper gave convincing accounts of how the dog would pick up the merest trace of human remains and ignore animal remains, and how it would not be tricked into making errors. They decided to dig where the dog alerted and where radar equipment picked up anomalies in the ground. One of those locations was the stairwell where the builders had found bones in 2003, and also where the “skull” fragment was found by the LGC anthropologist Julie Roberts on February 23. The item was labelled JAR/6. She described it as “degraded fragment of bone thought to be human skull, probably from a child”.
Did Harper, as his detractors have claimed, misrepresent the fragment, or claim it was one thing when he knew it was another? Perhaps too, though he would deny it, he was keen to find something to justify the more thorough dig. He would say he was simply passing on what the anthropologist said. Certainly he told it as she had described it. The anthropologist’s employer has since said they told the inquiry the very next day, February 24, that JAR/6 was in a 1940s layer and so “would appear to have been beyond the parameters of the investigation”. Harper denies ever hearing this. He says the first scientific doubts about the age were raised by the radiocarbon-dating lab at Oxford University on March 14, when they suggested it was very old or badly degraded. Everyone then was still assuming it was a fragment of human skull. But there is a clue to Harper’s real thinking in a Jersey Evening Post story, dated March 3: “The deputy police chief Lenny Harper told the JEP that it was not possible to say whether the skull fragment was from recent times or from before the 1950s, the period to which the inquiry dates back. ‘It could be a red herring — we just don’t know yet. But if it is, we will not have wasted much time during the inquiry on the item, as it has been bagged, sealed and sent to the UK for forensic examination,’ he said.”
On March 14, the scientists told the police that there was not enough collagen to date the fragment; a week later they said there was enough after all. Collagen is only present in human bones — not in wood or coconut shells. Then another week later, they changed their minds again: there was probably no collagen after all. It was only in early April that the experts began to suggest it was probably — not definitely — not human after all. So far as Harper is concerned, that is still the position now. The suggestion was that it could be wood or a seed. The idea that it might be a fragment of coconut shell was a secondary opinion never given directly to the inquiry. The anthropologist who had originally thought it was a piece of a child’s skull re-examined it over April 8 and 9 and noted it had changed texture, weight and colour since she first saw it. Now she thought it might not be bone, though she too could not be certain. But by now it was established that the fragment, human or not, came from a pre-1940s/Victorian layer of the dig. They agreed to put it to one side and not waste further resources on more tests. It was no longer relevant.
Harper says that perhaps he should have made the message clearer that the possible partial human remains were probably not human in origin. But at the time, with all the political flak around the inquiry, he decided it would be best to put it to one side and move on. Still, the press office would tell anyone who asked that the fragment had now been ruled out of the inquiry. There was never any attempt to maintain a deception that it was still a skull fragment.
One victim claimed to have been shackled in the cellars, and the 2003 builders had described finding shackles. When the inquiry recovered the items the builders had apparently seen, they did not describe them as shackles, but that was the word the media picked up from the builders. Harper says that he resisted the word for a long time, but eventually began using it himself. I have seen the “shackles” and, taken out of context, they are not convincing: one looks like an old stretched-out bed spring. But taken with the victim statement, the builders’ accounts and the circumstances in which they were found, you would not rule them out altogether.
The new inquiry told me that only three pieces of bone that were likely to be human had been found at the former home. Harper said it was 16. In fact, they were both wrong, though the Sheffield University anthropologist Andrew Chamberlain, who had examined those pieces, went out of his way to emphasise that he had never heard Harper say anything that contradicted or distorted his findings and had never found the inquiry to be anything other than professional.
A total of 65 children’s teeth had also been found — an extraordinary number, made more extraordinary by the anthropologist who had found them suggesting that some appeared to have been deliberately concealed in the cellars and elsewhere and by further evidence that many had not been shed naturally. The new police had attempted to make light of the discovery, suggesting the “tooth fairy” was the explanation, as a dentist had given evidence of removing teeth and handing them to staff for the children. Perhaps the staff had not bothered playing the tooth fairy and simply hoarded all the teeth. Perhaps. There was no witness evidence to explain the teeth. Perhaps they too were very old. Perhaps. Nobody could say unless they were dated. I was told the new inquiry had considered sending the teeth to be dated, but had been told not to, to save the cost.
During Harper’s inquiry, under public pressure to be seen to be doing the right thing, the Jersey States had told Harper that money was no object. Indeed, the chief executive had complained when Harper had said in a press release that he was weighing up the financial implications. Don’t do that, he was told. Spend what you need to spend. In truth, Harper is still not convinced that there were no relevant human remains at Haut de la Garenne. He points to all the odd circumstances: the teeth, the burnt bones, the builder’s finds, the stories of former residents, the pits dug in the grounds and lined with lime — nobody has ever explained what they were for. But, as he knows, the bodies just never materialised.
When Harper retired, his role had been split in two and he had been replaced as deputy chief officer by David Warcup from Northumbria police and as senior investigating officer for the abuse inquiry, known as Operation Rectangle, by a Lancashire detective, Mick Gradwell, widely praised for his handling of the inquiry into the deaths of the Chinese cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay.
I believe that Mick Gradwell came to Jersey with his reputation as a major-league senior investigating officer expecting to run a multiple-death inquiry, and was disappointed and frustrated to discover there were no murders after all. He packed his desk and took his plaques down from his office wall before Christmas and was about to resign and go home to Lancashire after only four months, only changing his mind at the last minute. He tells colleagues he is not putting the plaques back up, since he doesn’t anticipate staying for long. Whatever has gone on in the police camp, it has certainly meant that resources — and the long, painstaking work of once-trusted officers — have been squandered.
Perhaps, you will wonder, as I have, why they are spending so much time picking over Lenny Harper’s work and reputation when men who helped turn children into murderers and suicides, and a man who made a small boy’s head bob up and down in the water, have not been called to account.