RELEASED ON AN ˜IF ASKED' BASIS TO MEDIA FROM SATURDAY 24 MAY 2008
Lenny Harper, the Deputy Chief Officer of this force and the Senior Investigating Officer of the Historical Abuse Enquiry, d"s not want to enter into any exchange of allegations and counter allegations which would deflect attention from the investigation he is currently focussed on and which involves allegations of horrific abuse against children in Jersey. It should also be emphasised that the enquiry is looking at much more that just Haut de la Garenne.
However, the article by Andrew Malone in the Daily Mail of 24th May 2008 is so inaccurate, and misleading, even to the extent here it contains a number of alleged quotes which were simply never made by Mr Harper, that there is a need to respond.
The writer was given the full outline of what the police were told but has chosen not to use it. That information is summarised below and it will be for the public to make their minds up as to why the author of the report has ignored it and why he has included quotes from Mr Harper which were never made. The States of Jersey Police Press Officer made a full contemporaneous transcript of what Mr Harper said during the interview, (although not of Malone), and this is available for examination for anyone who wishes to check the accuracy of the quotes attributed to the DCO by Mr Malone.
The Anthropologist working with the enquiry team looked at the item when it was found on site and made a preliminary identification of it as a piece of a child's skull. It was then sent to the Laboratory concerned and they took possession of it on 6th March.
On 14th March they informed the SOJP of their test results, and in particular the result of their test for nitrogen. It had 0.6% they said, whereas the cut-off for dating a bone was 0.76. They then reported, "This tells us something about the potential age of the specimen of bone since if it was very recent (50 Years) we ought to see a better degree of preservation." They went on to say, "The fact that preservation is so poor leads us to conclude that there is a high probability that the bone is much older than it is suspected to be, perhaps much older than a century or two. That said, it is also possible (although the probability is much lower) that the bone is recent but simply very poorly preserved due to the depositional environment within which it has lain since interment. We cannot exclude this as a possible explanation." They went on to say that there was not enough collagen to date the bone. (Collagen is a protein only found in mammals including humans, but not in wood etc.)
As can be seen - there is absolutely no indication despite laboratory tests that they disagreed with our Anthropologist. In fact they seemed to support what we were being told by experts with us that the fragment was in a context which placed it outside our enquiry.
On 20th March the lab contacted the SOJP again. They said they had made an error and that the collagen level was actually better than originally thought. There was enough to date it - in fact there was 1.6% and only 1% was needed. Remember, this substance is found in mammals including human but not in wood etc.
On the 28th March they contacted the SOJP again and said, "Here are the details of the Jersey skull as discussed on the phone." They then described the nature of the acid wash they had given and said "The Jersey skull didn't fizz at all which suggested that preservation was poor." She went on to confirm that they had originally told us it was unlikely they could date it and that they had revised this when they found the levels of collagen described above. Now, she said, they were reverting to their original position that they could not date it because they now thought that it could not be collagen "unless it is extremely degraded." She added, "So any date we get might not be an accurate date for the skull itself." As can be seen, there was still no indication to contradict our information and indeed it corroborated what the archaeologists were telling us. As a result of the information about the Archaeological context, we had now eliminated the item from the investigation.
On 31 March they rang again. They now, for the first time, said they had some concern about what the item was "although it could well have been poorly preserved bone as I described it." Over the next few days they continued to say that "we do not think this is bone unless it is very old bone."
On Saturday 17th May they were asked if they were now saying it was definitively not bone. They said that they did not believe it to be bone but if we wanted a definitive answer then we should have it re-examined. To date, although the opinion is now less conclusive, the SOJ Police have not had a definitive contradiction of the original belief.
In respect of the article itself, there are a number of total inaccuracies, too many to contradict them all. Here however, are those which could be said to be the most significant.
The item found which is the subject of the controversy, is not "a smooth white object as described by Mr Malone. That description could not be further from the truth.
Mr Harper has never, and all responsible media have acknowledged that he has not, said that six more bodies might be found. He described six areas of interest which had to be explored and which included the cellars now the focus of this aspect of the enquiry.
Mr Harper never moved to quell suggestions that shackles and a bath had been found in the cellar because quite simply, they had been. Furthermore, their find corroborated the evidence of a number of victims. The SOJ Police have never confirmed until now that shackles were found. We do now, and also for the first time, confirm that a second pair of what appear to be "home made restraints were also discovered.
A number of other items were found which corroborated the stories of the victims. Again, whilst we do not want to elaborate, some of these items corroborate the fact that sexual activity took place in the area of interest. Further tests have obtained a DNA profile from one of these items, and enquiries have dated at least one of the articles as originating from the time of the enquiry.
Mr Harper has never, in spite of Mr Malone's claims, "admitted that he knew the fragment was a coconut shell. This is clearly because there is absolutely no scientific evidence to say that. Furthermore, the DCO never said he had made a mistake. He acknowledged that "some people think I got the decision wrong “ it is something I can't reverse now. Would my answer have been different? The honest answer is I really don't know.
Mr Harper has NEVER said "We don't now think it is bone or skull. He did not say it to Mr Malone or anyone else. As stated above, the transcript of exactly what Mr Harper said in this interview is available for anyone who would like to see it.
Mr Harper has NEVER said to Mr Malone at any time during the interview that he wanted "maximum publicity so that people here could not cover up what went on at this children's home. In fact, he did state that the people of Jersey had been "fantastic. This comment by Mr Malone is a slur on all of those members of the public in Jersey who have encouraged the enquiry team and whose overwhelming support has meant so much.
The claim that Mr Harper has agreed to write a book and is actively engaged in that process is nonsense. This rumour was being spread by at least one politician in Jersey this week who stated that a deal had already been signed with publishers. This has led to one Jersey media outlet contacting what they described as a publisher this week and asking for details on the pretence that they wished to serialise the book. The position is simple. Mr Harper has been asked by a number of persons, journalists included, if he would be interested in writing a book on his career including the present. His answer has been the same to all. At this moment in time he is fully focussed and committed to the enquiry. He retires in September and will not even consider such a matter until then. He would also point out that it is not unusual for Police Officers and other public servants be approached in this fashion. Mr Harper has not instigated any contact of this type.
Mr Harper was not "forced to admit that the fragments might be 500 years old. In any event he never said that. Examination of the media release will show that he said there was conflicting evidence from experts “ some information was showing one of the fragments to be at the most recent end of the enquiry's parameters, whilst other evidence was pointing to well before the enquiry began. We have always said we do not have evidence of murder.
From the perspective of the Enquiry Team the most disappointing aspect of this article is the total disregard for the welfare of the victims of the abuse. This week has seen them being labelled by certain politicians in Jersey as "people with criminal records. Additionally, the article contains interesting similarities to the words used by some of those publicly trying to discredit the enquiry. The focus of the SOJ Police has always been, and will remain to be, those victims who have placed their trust in the force to try and obtain justice for them. These increasing inaccurate attacks will not deflect the investigation.
Mr Harper has drawn the attention of the editor of the Daily Mail to the inaccuracies and has mad a formal complaint to the Independent Press Complaints Commission.
States of Jersey Police
24th May 2008
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