LONDON – Police investigating claims of abuse at a children's home on the Channel Island of Jersey say there is no evidence anyone was murdered there.
More than 100 people claim they were abused by staff at the Haut de la Garenne home, which closed in 1986. Detectives spent months searching the Victorian building earlier this year and claimed to have made a series of grisly discoveries that pointed to murder, including shackles, bone fragments, a bloodstained bathtub and dozens of children's teeth.
The island's police force now says the bones were hundreds of years old, while an alleged skull fragment may be a coconut.
"The forensic recoveries do not indicate there have been murders of children or other persons at Haut de la Garenne," said Deputy Chief Officer David Warcup.
Police have been investigating decades-old abuse allegations at the home since 2006, but the inquiry only became public late in 2007, when police set up a confidential telephone hot line for victims to report abuse. Soon, police were briefing reporters on their discoveries, sparking lurid reports of the "house of horrors" inside the sprawling structure.
Detective Superintendent Michael Gradwell said Wednesday that the rooms described as underground punishment chambers where children were beaten and raped were "just cellars." He said bones found at the home dated from between 1470 and 1670, while the alleged shackles were "just rusty metal."
An item discovered in February and initially thought to be a piece of a child's skull "was more likely a part of a coconut" from the Victorian era.
Warcup apologized for inaccurate information given earlier by the force. His predecessor, Lenny Harper, regularly briefed the media on the evidence found at the home and said detectives had found the burned and scarred remains of at least five children aged between 4 and 11. Harper retired in August.
Warcup expressed "regret that information has been given by police that was not strictly accurate."
Three men have been charged with sex abuse at the home and the investigation continues.
"The purpose of today is to say there is a child abuse inquiry but in terms of Haut de la Garenne, there was no murder," Gradwell said.
The Haut de la Garenne facility opened in 1867 as an industrial school and later served as a children's home. The police inquiry is focused on events that took place in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.
Jersey is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France. It is not part of the United Kingdom but is a territory owned by the British monarchy.