British Police Launch Search After Skull Is Dug Up at Former Children's Home

Police used dogs to search for more bodies Monday at a former children's home on the British island of Jersey after a child's skull was found under a concrete slab there.

The skull was found Saturday by a police dog in an investigation of the property, which was a home for orphaned and abandoned children until 1986. Forensic experts have determined the remains are at least 20 years old and that of a child.

Officials said that without dental records and a full list of who went missing from the home it may be difficult to determine the child's identity.

Police used dogs Monday to search for additional remains, focusing on a bricked-up cellar on the property, Jersey deputy police chief Lenny Harper said.

"We have had some positive indications from the dogs which are trained to find human remains, but there could be a number of viable alternative explanations," he said. "At this stage we just don't know if there are more bodies."

The building that housed the Haut de la Garenne home was built in 1867 and reopened in 2004 as a youth hostel on Jersey, about 100 miles south of Britain's main island and 14 miles from the French coast. The home was operated as part of Jersey's state-run child care program.

Police have received the names of people believed to be missing and are trying to determine if their remains are hidden on the property, Harper said.

"We've got a number of names that might or might not be missing," he said. "Some people thought to have been missing have been accounted for. We're trying to tie down exactly who is still missing."

About 150 people who lived in the home have come forward to say they were abused there, many prompted by the discovery of the skull. Most say the abuse — which includes allegations of sexual assault, beatings and children locked in confinement for extended periods — happened in the 1960s and 1970s, said Harper.

"There's been a significant number of victims that have come forward in the last two days, both from Jersey and the U.K.," Harper said.

Police set up a confidential telephone help line last year so that people who were subjected to physical or sexual abuse at the children's home could report the details without revealing their identities.

Harper said police will also try to determine why there was no response to earlier abuse complaints.

"Part of the inquiry will be about the fact that a lot of the victims tried to report their assaults at an earlier stage and they were never dealt with," Harper said. "We will look at all allegations. A number of agencies in Jersey didn't deal with this the way they should have."

Problems at the Haut de la Garenne home were first publicized by Stuart Syvret, a Jersey senator who complained about widespread abuses.

In a speech excerpted in Monday's edition of the Times, he said Jersey had long tolerated "a culture of disregard, abandonment and contempt for children, especially those children in need."