The wide-ranging investigation into Sir Jimmy Savile’s depraved activities has focused attention once more on claims of a possible paedophile ring and a ‘culture of cover-up’ on Jersey.
The Telegraph, 19th October 2012
In the bleak days of March 2008, the world’s media gathered outside Haut de la Garenne, a forbidding and isolated former workhouse and children’s home on Jersey. Police were digging for possible human remains and other evidence after almost 200 former residents of the home alleged abuse, including torture and rape, by staff and visitors over many years, with claims that some youngsters had “disappeared”.
Officers from mainland British forces, who had previously taken over leadership of the local force on a mission to root out alleged “endemic corruption” within Jersey’s constabulary, led the high‑profile investigation into historical child abuse on the island.
Now two of those officers, Jersey’s former Chief Officer Graham Power and the former Deputy Chief Officer Lenny Harper, the senior officer in the Haut de la Garenne abuse inquiry, are backing victims’ calls for an outside force to investigate allegations that Sir Jimmy Savile and others, including some celebrities, regularly sexually abused children on Jersey.
The shocking revelations of Savile’s depraved behaviour have, to the relief of the Jersey abuse victims, refocused attention on Haut de la Garenne. In their view, it confirms their claims that the home was at the heart of a well-protected paedophile ring.
Allegations against Savile and other famous and powerful people were made during the 2008 inquiry. Earlier this week, the Telegraph revealed that another alleged abuser was the actor Wilfrid Brambell, the “dirty old man” of Steptoe and Son fame. One of two boys whom he abused in a back room at the Jersey Opera House in the Seventies was from Haut de la Garenne.
The States of Jersey Police have confirmed that an Haut de la Garenne resident had alleged abuse by Savile in the mid-Seventies during the 2008 inquiry, but said there had been insufficient evidence for an investigation to proceed. The authority has also confirmed that three more victims of Savile on Jersey have contacted them in recent days.
Carrie Modral, chair of the Jersey Care Leavers’ Association, a charity run by people who have spent time in care, says: “It’s good that the Savile scandal is making people think more about what happened here. But why have the States of Jersey only admitted it about Savile now? Because he’s dead and he can’t talk or bring down all the other big names. Their view would be that we, the survivors, keep going on about celebrities abusing kids at Haut de la Garenne, so OK, ‘Here’s one, he’s dead and he can’t talk.’ But Savile was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Lenny Harper agrees: “Savile chose his victims with great care; vulnerable and often troubled youngsters many in care homes. If they complained they were labelled troublemakers, or brutally put down. We know from court cases and statements made to my team [during the 2008 inquiry] that children in Jersey care homes were ‘loaned out’ to members of the yachting fraternity and other prominent citizens on the pretence of recreational trips but during which they were savagely abused and often raped.
“When these children complained they were beaten and locked in cellars [at Haut de la Garenne], which the Jersey authorities denied existed in 2008, but which can still be seen on YouTube footage. What chance did they have? This would have been the perfect hunting ground for Savile. The great and good of Jersey fawn over anyone with even loose connections to British royalty. Saville would have been a VIP to them and children would not have stood a dog’s chance of complaining about him. It would have been so easy for him.”
Rumours about abuse at Haut de la Garenne had been rife for years but, according to Harper, junior police officers who tried to help those making allegations were “thwarted by corrupt seniors”. He claims that the 2008 inquiry so infuriated and embarrassed Jersey’s establishment that a campaign was initiated to smear the lead officers and label them credulous and money-wasting.
The dig at the home was discredited, supposedly having found nothing, but even Harper’s critical successors in the investigation admit that at least three human bone fragments were found and children’s teeth, from between 10 and 65 children of all ages.
These have never been adequately explained, Harper says. “They were not from a long ago cemetery or all animal bones, but the bones proved impossible to date. One anthropologist said they were a couple of decades old, but another said they could not be dated. We’ll never know. They were definitely human and juvenile.”
Harper retired in autumn 2008, to spend more time with his daughter and her young family, after his Army officer son-in-law was killed in Iraq. His supportive boss, Chief Officer Graham Power, a former senior Met officer and recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal, was suspended in November 2008. Both officers were later investigated by outside forces, at Jersey’s instigation, but no evidence of misconduct was found.
Jersey’s former health minister, Stuart Syvret, who backed the victims and police in the 2008 investigation, was also sacked. He was imprisoned last year for publicising a serious allegation on another, unrelated matter which, for legal reasons, cannot be described.
Syvret told the Telegraph: “Jimmy Savile abused children in Jersey. I believed his victims. Just as I believe the two people who told me of child abuse by another TV personality [this week confirmed as Brambell] on Jersey from the Seventies. Just as I believed those who told me that the authorities of the day had ignored their complaints of years of abuse by others in Jersey’s children’s homes. Savile is dead, so why must we dig into the sorry and wretched details? Because the crucial feature of this case is not so much the individual crimes, as bad as they are, and as damaging for the victims; it is, instead, what I call the ‘culture of cover‑up’.”
As a result of the fallout from the investigation into Haut de la Garenne, the public was left believing that Harper and his team had over-reacted to the abuse allegations. Yet three people have since been convicted of abuse as a result of the inquiry, and to date compensation has been agreed for over 100 victims, with many more civil cases pending. Police had allegations against 150 individuals, many never adequately investigated – including Savile. There are at least four known victims of Savile from Jersey, and at least one disclosed their abuse to police in 2008, yet it is only now that their claims are being considered seriously.
Jersey Police have confirmed that one victim made accusations against Savile in 2008. But, for reasons that are still unclear, it is thought the allegations were not typed up into the statements seen by senior officers. It is believed that Savile denied ever having been to Haut de la Garenne and threatened to sue a newspaper for claiming that he visited the home.
Although the Metropolitan Police are co-ordinating inquiries across Britain into Savile’s alleged crimes, it is individual forces that are expected to examine them in detail. Carrie Modral says few of the victims trust Jersey’s police to do so. “That window of opportunity closed when the Jersey establishment got rid of the good cops,” she says.
It was a member of the Jersey Care Leavers’ Association who told police in 2008 that she was sexually abused at Haut de la Garenne by Savile. “The news about Savile has brought it all back, she is in great distress,” says Modral. “Savile visited regularly, not just Haut de la Garenne but other children’s homes on the island. He wasn’t the only visitor. The victim has named another household name who visited the home with Savile.”
She added: “I can tell you that two staff members who abused her at another home have been imprisoned, and the authorities have agreed financial compensation for her. But another man in a position of authority who regularly visited Haut de la Garenne and abused her there is still free and now employed in a responsible position by the state.”
Lenny Harper has confirmed to the Telegraph that he arrested this man for allegedly raping two other children at the home: “I gave a lot of information to the authorities about him, but he’s still employed by them in a senior position,” Harper says. “There were two solid allegations of rape against him that would have been proceeded with if it was in the UK. There was similar fact evidence. But Jersey’s Attorney General ruled that it was not.
“When we started the dig this man turned up and demanded access to the site. He allegedly wanted to get some stuff he’d left there years before. Yet this man’s name aroused more fear in the victims than any other in the inquiry.”
Ms Modral agreed: “He was no holds barred. And I have been told he made it clear he had friends and felt he would be protected. If he goes down he will bring down the government [in Jersey], because of what he knows about other people. The press needs now to look at all the other big name visitors to the home.”
What Savile did to the victim was “horrible, but small beer” compared to what others did to her, says Modral. “Savile put her on his knee and got his hand up her skirt. Then he tried to touch her little sister, and she pulled her away when he started to cuddle her. She was already being abused at Haut de la Garenne by staff, so she knew what he would do. Imagine being so young yourself and trying to save your little sister. They were 11 and nine.”
Modral says she met Savile when he visited a youth club on the island. “It’s ridiculous that he said he was never here. He was always coming to the island to open charity walks, and [visit] the children’s home and children would go [to see him]. I didn’t like the man, I stayed well away, I found him frightening, just the look of him.”
Possible links are emerging between abuse in Jersey children’s homes and the earlier notorious Islington children’s homes paedophile ring. A key figure in the ring, Islington’s deputy children’s homes superintendent Nicholas Rabet, came from Jersey. He had worked there in childcare, and regularly took children from the north London council’s homes on camping trips to the island.
Rabet fled Britain after the press exposed him, but was charged in Thailand in 2006 with abusing 30 boys there, the youngest six. He killed himself before he could be tried. His ally, Neil Hocquart, killed himself in custody in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in 1991, after being found with hundreds of paedophile videos. He had grown up in care in Norfolk and was taken to Guernsey, where he became the “cabin boy” of a sea captain, before returning to Britain to recruit children for the paedophile ring. Karin Ward, who featured in the ITV documentary about Savile that sparked the current inquiries, has described being abused by the star during a camping trip to Jersey from her Norfolk children’s home.
The former Jersey Chief Officer Graham Power says the fact that more than 100 victims on Jersey have now received out-of-court settlements and a significant number of civil cases are still pending illustrates the scale of the abuse. He says he understands why victims mistrust the local force to investigate the Savile allegations: “The scale of abuse that occurred in this small community was so great that it seems to be beyond doubt that persons in authority must have known something of what was taking place, and, from what we know so far, they appear to have done nothing to protect the children who were being abused in establishments operated by their own government. This is a matter which merits honest and independent examination.”
Alan Collins, a solicitor with Pannone, a legal firm specialising in abuse cases that is representing 58 of the victims, says initially all the focus was on Haut de la Garenne, its workers and management. “Jimmy Savile was a sideshow. I honestly couldn’t say how many have named Savile. But there were several people who named him, it was plural, not singular. All the allegations need to be looked at now en masse for similar fact evidence, because now we are seeing a bigger jigsaw. Each individual complaint makes more sense now. Savile is dead but others who abused them are not.”
The Attorney General, William Bailhache, issued a statement in June 2009 stating that two historic abuse investigations were dropped because of a lack of evidence. “Cases of this nature are often difficult. There is rarely any independent evidence, and often the cases come down to being the word of one person against another… A decision not to bring criminal proceedings does not necessarily mean that those who have made complaints are not believed. A decision not to prosecute means only that the Attorney General, having fully considered all of the available evidence and other information, has decided that an acquittal is more likely than a conviction.”