Sniffer dog may have found more human remains at Jersey home

The investigation into child abuse allegations on Jersey took a further grim turn yesterday after a police sniffer dog picked up traces of either human remains or blood in the cellar of the Haut de la Garenne.

Police have been working round-the-clock at the former children's home to gain access to the bricked-up cellar, which a number of witnesses and alleged victims have claimed was where much of the abuse took place during the 1970s and 1980s.

Speaking outside the home, Jersey's deputy police chief, Lenny Harper, said the dog had shown an "extremely strong reaction" when taken into the cellar, which until yesterday afternoon had been inaccessible to officers. He added that the dog's response was similar to that shown when a child's skull was found under a stairwell in the home last weekend.

The discovery of a trace inside the cellar raises the prospect that further human remains may be found in the home, but the police were also keen to stress that if the trace was blood then there could be an innocent explanation for it. Nonetheless, Haut de la Garenne is being treated as a possible murder scene.

Police confirmed that the number of potential victims of abuse had risen to "well in excess of 160". In the past two days alone they have received 70 calls from potential witnesses. Mr Harper said he was hopeful that arrests will be made. Mr Harper, the officer in charge of the international investigation, also revealed that officers came across an item in the basement that had been described in a number of witness statements and which sources have indicated may be a bathtub. Mr Harper refused to confirm what exactly the item was, but indicated it was an ordinary household item that had been bolted to the floor.

"It would appear as if the cellar is exactly as some of the witnesses who've made statements to us and victims have described," he told reporters.

A forensic examiner also discovered what she believes to be a second room of similar dimensions adjacent to the cellar, which has also been bricked up and will need to be broken into. Mr Harper said that both rooms appear to measure approximately 12ft square and are 3-4ft below ground level.

"There is another room of the same size that appears to have been bricked up," he said. "Some of the bricking-up appears suspicious, but there could be an innocent explanation for it."

An archaeologist and specialist anthropologist are expected to go into the cellar today to start sifting through the rubble and debris inside the first room. The investigation of the house was temporarily halted on Tuesday in order to carry out a survey into whether the 130-year building could withstand the excavations. Officers will have to check regularly that the building is safe to continue working in.

Yesterday, police confirmed the excavation of the cellars alone may take weeks.

Although the police are searching a number of other sites around Haut de la Garenne in which the sniffer dog had shown interest last weekend, the cellar is fast emerging as the major focus of the investigation.

Graham Power, Jersey's top police officer, said that many of the alleged victims who have come forward recently have spoken of "this deep, dark place where they claimed sexual and physical abuse took place. These people told us that sometimes they had been abused in that dark place and on other occasions they had been held in there and given food before they were taken out and subjected to abuse."

Police officers travelled to Thailand earlier this week to interview one potential victim, while two statements were also taken from witnesses in Australia last week.

Mr Harper confirmed at least 40 people were now suspects, including former workers at the home and their friends. Some local police officers are also under suspicion, but not for abuse.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence