Former residents at a Jersey care home where police are searching for the remains of up to six children described yesterday how they were repeatedly drugged, raped and abused while supposedly under the protection of the institution's staff.
Testimonies, including one from a leading local trade unionist, painted a horrifying picture of life inside Haut de la Garenne, where more than 1,000 children were housed in the decades before it was closed down.
Peter Hannaford, 59, who lived at the home until he was 12, called for the building to be demolished. Speaking for the first time in public about his ordeal, he described his childhood there as "hell". "The abuse was anything from rape to torture. It was men and women who abused us. It happened every night and it happened to everyone. I was scared to go to bed. You were threatened with punishment if you said anything, which could have been a whip or anything," the union official said.
A mother-of-two, identified only as Pamela, 49, said she spent two years inside the home in the early 1970s. She alleged that the weakest children were selected by members of staff during drunken parties and plied with cigarettes and alcohol.
"The things that happened there are indescribable – the most cruel, sadistic and evil acts you could think of," she said.
Children who fell foul of the authorities were stripped naked and locked in a 10ft "punishment room", she claimed.
"I was sent there if I slipped up in any way – not eating all of my dinner, looking at one of the staff in a funny way, basically any excuse they could find," she said.
"When I fought back a female staff member came in and gave me huge dose of valium that knocked me out, and sexually assaulted me. I was always being drugged."
Some 150 people have contacted police since the discovery of human bones at the care home on Saturday. It also emerged that the notorious paedophile Edward Paisnell, known as the Beast of Jersey, visited Haut de la Garenne during the 1960s.
The political fallout on the island from the affair continued yesterday. The Chief Minister, Frank Walker, issued a statement conceding that "a cloud hangs over Jersey". However, he sought to calm fears of an island-wide cover up by insisting there was "no hiding place in Jersey for anyone who abused children or, who in any way may have colluded with that abuse and no stone will be left unturned to bring them to justice".
But the former health minister who was sacked after blowing the whistle on the children's care home scandal claimed senior figures on the island had concealed evidence of an earlier sex abuse scandal at a school. Senator Stuart Syvret handed out copies of a confidential report from 2000 on the activities of Jervis Dykes, a teacher at the local Victoria College, who was jailed for abusing six pupils between 1979 and 1996.
Mr Syvret also accused the island's newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, of failing to publish the critical findings, which he had leaked to journalists. The newspaper said the document contained no new information and it had decided not to publish "in deference to the feelings of victims and their families".
Excavation work at the Haut de la Garenne was due to resume today after it was suspended for a structural survey.
Kenny Le Quesne, 57: 'The principal beat me with a birch cane. I used to cry myself to sleep'
Mr Le Quesne stayed at the home for six weeks during the mid 1960s when he was a young teenager.
"My mother sent me there after she caught me stealing some money from her purse," he said. "I should have been there for only a couple of days, but within hours of arriving I ran away. When I returned the principal beat me with a birch cane.
"There were a lot of older boys who had done far worse than steal a shilling. They were all part of gangs and they were terrifying. I used to cry myself to sleep every night.
"On one occasion, one of the boys chucked a lump of fat into the stew I was eating in the lunch hall. One of the guards saw me take it out and hit me. He told me to eat it. When I refused he hit me again. It made me retch, but I had to get it down because everyone was watching me."