The House of Horrors Reveals Its Secrets

Until last month, the British Channel Island of Jersey was known mostly for its tourism, its status as an offshore tax shelter, and for the quality of its milk, courtesy of the famous Jersey cattle.

But now, something more sinister has clouded the island's reputation – a child-abuse scandal that threatens to destroy the reputations of some of Jersey's most well-known politicians and business leaders.

It began with the discovery – in February – of skull fragments at a former children's home called Haut de la Garenne.

Rumors about child sexual abuse at the establishment, which closed in 1986, have swirled around the island for years. Although Jersey police confirmed on Monday that results are still awaited on the fragments, the initial findings provoked a storm of phone calls to the police, some from alleged victims and others from people claiming to have witnessed abuse at Haut de la Garenne.

Last Wednesday, police officials were able to break into the cellar of the building, which had been blocked with bricks. They found a room measuring about 12 square feet, containing what appears to be a communal bath made of concrete. The discovery was hailed as "significant" by police, who later said that it seemed "to link with accounts from witnesses."

The police also found a pair of shackles in the cellar, and the first published pictures of the room show a wooden post next to the bath on which someone had scrawled: "I've been bad for years and years."

Abuse Claims Stretching Back Over 50 Years

Although many in the media have speculated on the significance of the cellar, alleging that the staff at the home would abuse children by putting them in freezing water in the bath, police would not confirm the reports.

But a former resident, Winnie Lockhart, tells ABC News that she remembered hearing threats about being taken "into a dungeon" during her days there.

Lockhart, now in her 60s, was only 13 years old when she was sent to Haut de la Garenne in 1955.

"I remember being woken up by screaming boys night after night," she recalls.

"But when I asked the boys about it later, they told me not to tell anyone. 'You will be taken to the dungeon as well,' they said."

Describing herself as a "rebellious sort," Lockhart says she finally plucked up the courage to tell an adult about the noises she was hearing.

"I went to the matron and asked her what was going on, but she just smacked me in response."

"Then," Lockhart adds, "I was sent to a psychiatrist. When I told her about the abuse in the home, she told me to stop making up stories."

"After that I was just too frightened to tell anyone else," she says.

Patricia Thornton oversaw Haut de la Garenne during the 1950s and early 1960s.

The octogenarian – who was awarded an MBE, a prestigious British award in 1996 by Queen Elizabeth for her services to the community – insists that no abuse took place under her watch.

"I am quite sure I would have known if there were such incidents," Thornton says in an interview with ABC News.

She even keeps in touch with some of the boys and girls she met in Jersey, such as Lockhart, who describes Thornton as "the mother I never had."

Lockhart's admissions of the abuse suffered by her and other children shocked Thornton.

"She asked me why I didn't come to her," Lockhart says, adding that she was "just too scared by then to talk to any adults about the abuse."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...