British child abuse inquiry leads to wartime German bunker

10th July 2008, Comments 0 comments

British court case leads to grisly allegations of sexual abuse and possible additional crimes in a wartime German bunker

London -- A new grim dimension was added to a long- running child abuse investigation in Britain's Channel island of Jersey on Wednesday when police announced that some of the victims reported having been subjected to "serious sexual crimes" in a wartime German bunker.

"We have an allegation of serious sexual crimes having taken place in the bunker. We are talking about six witness statements to us concerning the bunker. Six different witnesses and different incidents," said police chief Lenny Harper on Wednesday.

The bunker lies about 500 metres from the boundary of the former Haut de la Garenne children's home where the bulk of the abuse in the 1960s and 1970s is believed to have taken place.

The only visible sign of the bunker is a squat brick tower perched in an idyllic spot on the edge of the cliff on the island, which -- along with four smaller Channel Islands -- was occupied by Nazi Germany's army from 1940 to 1945.

"There are a number of different entrances to the bunker and we will work through them methodically," said Harper.

"We are starting a forensic scene examination of an underground wartime bunker where we believe a number of offences have been committed, including serious sexual crimes."

The bunker, used as a lookout, was part of extensive German fortifications on the island which was invaded by German troops from occupied France after wartime British premier Winston Churchill declared the demilitarised island grouping in the English Channel as being of "no strategic importance" within the wider strategic scenario at the time.

Sniffer dogs, trained to detect blood and human material, were to be sent down into the bunker later on Wednesday "to see if it reacts," said Harper.

"It would be very surprising, bearing in mind the nature of the property...if we didn't get a reaction of some sort from a dog who is trained to detect either human remains or blood," said Harper.

"If there's any evidence there, we will find it," he added.

Investigations at Haut de la Garenne started in February after the discovery of what was initially believed to be part of a child's skull, but was later thought to be wood or part of a coconut.

Following the find, scores of people came forward claiming they were drugged, raped and beaten at the home in the 1960s and later.

Police excavated four secret underground chambers at the site, referred to as "punishment rooms" by some victims, where they found shackles, a large bloodstained bath and 65 milk teeth.

Police have also recovered at least 30 charred human bone fragments and in one cellar found the haunting message "I've been bad for years and years" scrawled on a wooden post.

Of the bone fragments unearthed, tests have found that some were cut while others were burnt, indicating that murder had taken place, with the victims' bodies possibly cremated in a fireplace.

"Haut de la Garenne remains a potential homicide scene," Harper said Wednesday. Investigators have removed 150 tons of debris during the course of searches at the home, which had now been completed.

Police say there are more than 40 suspects, and more than 100 people have come forward with reports of abuse.

Three men have been charged with sex abuse offences as part of the inquiry, which critics have said has been overshadowed by "culture of secrecy" on the part of the island's "political establishment."

Harper, 56, who is retiring from the investigations next month, has told British newspapers that he suffered personal abuse and intimidation in the course of his work.

"I have not only had threats to have my house and car burned, there have been rumours spread about my private life...people have called me a liar, it's just constant," he told British daily Daily Telegraph in a recent interview.


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