There have been claims made in the media today about the origin of the item believed to be a fragment of bone found at Haut de Le Garenne in February. The article is a selective and one sided attack which completely ignores information given to the author by investigating officers and specialists. Accordingly the States of Jersey Police would like to clarify the following.
The item was forwarded to the UK for carbon dating on 6th March 2008 following a preliminary examination at the scene. On 14 March the Police were told there was insufficient collagen to date the fragment, and that this "of course tells us something about the potential age of the specimen of bone. The lab went on to give two scenarios “ either the bone was very old, or "the bone is recent but simply very poorly preserved owing to the depositional environment since interment. Although the latter was less probable, this corroborated what the investigators were being told about the context by the Archaeologists working on site.
However , the Enquiry Team were told on 20th March that the Collagen level was better that originally believed and was actually sufficient to date.
On 28th March the police were told that the manner in which "the Jersey skull behaved indicated that preservation was poor, and that the substance present was not collagen unless it was "extremely degraded.
The Lab also reported that "the Jersey skull had 0.60% nitrogen as opposed to their cut off for successful dating of 0.76.
The first indication that the Laboratory were now thinking that the item might not be bone came over the next few days. Police were told that in the opinion of the Laboratory staff the item was not bone, but possibly wood or a seed. However, this was qualified by the statement that if it was bone it was very old bone, again corroborating the information available to the team. By this time anyway, the item had been eliminated from the enquiry because of the confirmation of the archaeological context in which it had been found. An announcement was made to this effect and as a result, it was decided to take the item no further.
Yesterday, (17th May) a letter was e mailed from the Laboratory setting out their opinions. Despite the inference in the article concerned, this was the first that the Enquiry team knew of any letter. Police were informed of that letter yesterday by the media, and requested a copy. As a result of a comment within the letter about the possible age of the bone, the Laboratory staff were asked if they were definitely stating the item was not bone. The reply was that although in their view it was not a bone, if the Police wanted to show definitively what it was they would need to have it examined by a further specialist.
The Enquiry Team and the Anthropologist who examined the fragment accept now that in the light of the opinion of the Laboratory, the origin of the item is less conclusive. It should also be noted that it is standard practice in this type of enquiry to submit to a laboratory any items considered to be bone in order to confirm origin as well as to establish date, and it is accepted that in doing so views at variance with the original opinion may be obtained. Under normal circumstances the scientist and investigative team would receive a conclusive and timely report to assist them. Unfortunately this did not happen in this case.
While the item has now been examined by three specialists, it has been ruled out of the enquiry because of the archaeological context in which it had been found and it is not intended to proceed further with this exhibit.
The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) is particularly upset that comments by his forensic services manager Victoria Coupland, have been taken completely out of context by the author of the article and used to infer an attempt to suppress information by her. The words by Mrs Coupland were part of an explanation as to the enquiry team wanting to avoid a debate by two experts which would have detracted from the abuse enquiry. The SIO, Mr Harper, takes full responsibility for the decision to curtail the debate on the item which had already been ruled out of the enquiry and which would have indeed distracted attention from the victims of abuse.
We would point out that this item is one of numerous pieces and fragments of bone identified by the Anthropologists working with us as warranting further work. In the last two weeks alone they have identified twenty pieces of bone, together with six children's teeth, all found in the cellar area. Many of these items are currently undergoing examination in the UK. The teeth have been examined by at least one expert in that field, and a number of them by two experts. We have received a preliminary report on some of the bones and as a result we have submitted a number of them for Carbon dating and potential DNA testing.
We expect the results of the dating next week and will be issuing a press statement about the teeth and the bones on receipt of those results. At that stage we will know more about the possibility that there might have been unexplained deaths of children within Haut de Le Garenne.
In the meantime we continue to have well over one hundred victims making allegations of serious abuse and our efforts are directed to obtaining justice for them as will as further investigating the finds at Haut de le Garenne.
Until the results of the testing are received we will make no further comment.
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