A TOP cop blasted for his handling of the Jersey children’s home sex abuse probe last night hit back and said: “I couldn’t let the bad guys win.”
Lenny Harper led the inquiry into claims that youngsters at Haut de la Garenne were drugged, raped, beaten and murdered.
But he came under fire this week when it emerged that the find that sparked the £4.5million probe—thought to be part of a child’s skull—was probably a piece of coconut.
The former Deputy Police Chief, who retired in August, insisted: “There was something evil going on at Haut de la Garenne and I felt I had to carry on my inquiry.”
He said he owed his allegiance to the scores of alleged victims who came forward as his inquiry gathered pace.
The 56-year-old no-nonsense Ulsterman said: “I couldn’t just walk away. The reason is simple—cop or ex-cop, you don’t want to see the bad guys win.
“Whether it’s the abusers or those who for whatever reason are making it easier for them to evade justice—they are the bad guys and I can’t let them win.
“I had threats to burn down my house, burn my car and a death threat but what made that seemingly irrelevant was the attitude of the ordinary people in Jersey, who in letters, emails and postcards, expressed their appreciation of what my team were doing.”
This week Mr Harper’s successor David Warcup blasted his inquiry. Of the suspicion— exclusively revealed by the News of the World in July— that murders were committed at the home, Warcup said: “That is all inaccurate and not supported by the evidence.”
Lenny Harper interview excerpts
At his home in Ayr, Scotland, Mr Harper said he was always specific that he was treating Haut de la Garenne as a homicide SCENE, not a homicide INQUIRY.
He stressed: “I never said children were murdered there.
“The furthest I went was to say it was very likely children had died there.
“I could not say how and still cannot, but there were highly suspicious circumstances of how we found bones and teeth—burnt and buried. You have to ask, ‘Why would anyone go to the trouble of all that?’
“I still have no answer to that, so I cannot understand how Mr Warcup can now definitely say that children’s bodies were NOT disposed of at the home with no explanation for what we found.
“As far as I can see the evidence we found does not prove murder but at the same time I cannot see how they can just rule it out.” Defending the decision to excavate the site, Mr Harper said: “We’d been taking statements from the abuse victims and witnesses for about a year and there were things coming up which I couldn’t ignore.
“A number said there were the remains of children buried at the home. A couple of witnesses said that people were coming into the home all the time and that they heard children being dragged from their bed in the middle of the night and they weren’t seen again.”
He consulted archaeologists, forensic experts and anthropologists and decided to carry out a four-day “screening exercise” of Haut de la Garenne to see if what they were being told was true.
That dig took a dramatic twist when a piece of what Harper was told was a child’s skull was found.
He said: “I was told that it had to be re-examined. To this day as far as I am aware it has never been positively identified as being either a piece of human bone or not.”
A full probe followed. Police discovered “cellars” beneath floorboards—into which witnesses say children were lowered and abused. Bits of cloth and bone fragments were also found—along with “shackles.” Mr Harper hit back at suggestions by the new investigation team that the “shackles” were in fact a roofing gutter bracket and electric cable pin.
He declared: “They are saying they can’t be shackles because they look just like rusty pieces of metal. Well what do they expect? They’ve been in the ground for 40 years.
“There were two pairs of what we thought could be shackles.”
Critics this week said a scrawled message in the cellars reading “I’ve been bad for years” was written as a joke by builders in 2003. However, Mr Harper revealed that ANOTHER piece of graffiti found there matches exactly the statement of a man who claims he was abused there over 30 years ago.
The new team said the discovery of 65 children’s teeth was probably the work of the “tooth fairy”. Mr Harper branded this theory “hogwash” and snapped: “What they said this week was just b******s.”
He told how archaeologists recovered the teeth and more than 100 burnt bone fragments in the east wing cellars.
He said experts reckoned the teeth and bones were burned in a furnace in the west wing—and later moved to the cellar area, brushed out and covered with top soil.
He questioned: “Why would anybody have done that? That raised our suspicions. Was it to cover up murder?”
Experts from the UK and Jersey concluded the milk teeth had come from at least FIVE kids. Mr Harper added: “Most disturbingly, both said a number of the teeth could not have come out before death. There was the full root in some of the teeth.
“The theory that children could have been leaving them under the pillows for the tooth fairy is rubbish.”
Haut de la Garenne ceased to be a kids’ home in 1986.
Six people have been arrested and three, including an ex-warden, charged with child abuse. Since Mr Harper retired, no-one else has been charged. He fears there was always a full-scale effort to HIDE the truth. He revealed: “From the outset of my inquiry we were being attacked on two fronts—from a group of ex-police officers and the politicians who were constantly trying to denigrate the work we were doing.
“I believe they were trying to play down years of historic abuse in a bid to protect the ‘bucket and spade’ image of the Island.”
Although Jersey is part of the British Isles, it has a separate government and makes its own laws. The child abuse probe has focused attention on whether reform of the way the island is run is required.
Mr Harper said: “Jersey has its own rules and if you try and stand up to those in power you’ll feel their wrath.
“I have no doubt that the establishment are trying to make out that our inquiry was incompetent because it suits their purposes very well.
“With us out of the way I just fear that there will be no appetite to find justice for these victims of child abuse.”
Mr Harper concluded: “I will lose no sleep over what I have done with this inquiry.
“I was a year away from retiring I did not need the grief.
“But these victims had come forward and trusted us. I didn’t want to be responsible for letting them down again.”
The isle’s former health minister Stuart Syvret claimed: “For decades virtually every state department including the police, courts and civil servants was working in a culture of concealment. It’s taken someone like Lenny to take the victims seriously.”
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