Four punishment rooms feared at Jersey home

Police warn against attempts to intimidate abuse victims as man claims former children's home worker told him to keep quiet hidden 'punishment rooms' at Haut de la Garenne as more than 160 former victims come forward
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The Independent Online

Police searching the Haut de la Garenne former children's home in Jersey fear there could be at least four secret underground "punishment rooms" to excavate before all of its secrets are unearthed.

Detectives discovered a bricked-up wall possibly leading to a chamber similar to the one currently being combed for clues and where shackles and a bath were discovered last week.

The find came as search teams continued their investigations at the Victorian-built home where a child's skull was discovered more than a week ago and where former residents have claimed they were locked in solitary confinement, beaten and abused.

Deputy police chief Lenny Harper said: "We know there is another chamber next to the one we're working in. We suspect there might be two more running off it."

The search of the house and grounds is now expected to last months.

Investigators said bones had been uncovered in a field behind the home, but experts were satisfied they were "not human".

Police also warned yesterday that anybody attempting to intimidate witnesses would be prosecuted, after a man claimed he had been approached by a former care worker and told to stay silent.

Mr Harper, who is leading the investigation into the allegations, said any intimidation would be dealt with seriously. "We will not tolerate it," he said. "We will see it as a serious offence and deal with it."

The man, thought to be an alleged victim known as "Steve", spoke to reporters earlier this week. He said he was warned by a former care worker not to "dredge up" the past.

More than 160 victims have come forward to police saying abuse, including flogging, drugging and rape, was carried out at the home over a 40-year period. Police are currently excavating a hidden cellar.

New details emerged yesterday about a victim of abuse at the home who was given an 18-month suspended sentence in 2003 for trying to blackmail their abuser. The victim – known only as "X" in Royal Court papers – demanded £5,000 from the alleged abuser and threatened to go to the police, claiming repeated rape by the former care worker in the 1960s. It is believed to be one of the investigations that led detectives to open the whole inquiry.

A woman who says she was abused by care staff at the home in the 1960s and 1970s described how she is still haunted by the abuse. "I've had the same dream for the past 25 to 30 years about a man standing by my bed," she said. "I always wake up screaming you know, but I can't ever see the man's face." The woman said her mother complained to police, but it was never followed up.

Senator Stuart Syvret, Jersey's former health minister, yesterday released fresh allegations of child abuse at another former care home on the island. A secret social services report written in 1999 stated that "gross acts of physical and psychological abuse" were committed against children at the Blanche Pierre home in St Clement between 1986 and 1990.