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Victims tell horror stories about old children's home

ST. MARTIN, Jersey — Cyril Turner has vivid memories of his time at Haut de la Garenne, a forbidding Victorian-era home for troubled children where a child's skull has been dug up and where police fear they will discover the bones of more young victims.

None of Turner's memories are good: He recalls beatings and a culture of fear that led to an escape attempt that ended in a car crash that landed him in the hospital for a year.

After decades of silence and shame, the truth about the imposing brown-stone building overlooking the sea is slowly emerging as victims of suspected abuse speak out.

Turner, 49, is one of at least 150 people who have come forward to complain about physical, mental and sexual abuse they say was committed at the home before it closed in 1986.

All but a few have remained anonymous as a police investigation unfolds. Most of the victims came forward after authorities set up a confidential hot line in November as part of an investigation into accusations of serious abuse at the home in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

One victim, 59-year-old Peter Hannaford, told a local newspaper he and other children were raped nearly every night for several years. He refused to discuss his ordeal when contacted by the Associated Press.

The abuse allegations and grisly discovery Saturday of a child's remains have punctured the idyllic image of this British island off the coast of France and its reputation as a tax haven with beautiful beaches, French food and English efficiency.

That has been replaced by grim images of Haut de la Garenne, an austere structure set on a cliff, where victims say the people in charge treated children as captives to be tortured and raped.

Unsettling questions are being asked: Are there more victims buried on the grounds or hidden in a bricked-up cellar discovered inside the building? Could the perpetrators of abuse be a friend, a neighbor or other acquaintance on the island?

One suspect, a 76-year-old man, has been arrested and charged with indecent assault for allegedly abusing three girls at the home from 1969 to 1979.

Police scouring the property said Wednesday that a dog trained to search for human remains picked up a "very strong reaction" — raising fears the grounds may conceal more gruesome secrets.

Haut de la Garenne, which means "Forest Heights," opened in 1867 as an industrial school designated for "young people of the lower classes of society and neglected children."

The rundown home was shuttered in 1986 and the children were moved to other institutions.

Victims tell horror stories about old children's home 02/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:01am]
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