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'Horror' of children's home haunts island

  • Story Highlights
  • Police found child's remains at former children's home over the weekend
  • 150 residents have claimed that they were abused in island's institutions
  • Local politician says colleagues might be more interested in island's reputation
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By Phil Black
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JERSEY, Channel Islands (CNN) -- Jersey has known trauma before. For five years during World War II, the Nazi flag flew over this British isle.

It was a time of jackboots, strict orders and tough punishments. Many here still talk about the occupation. Fred Carpenter lived through it.

And he did it harder than most, as a resident of the children's home that later became known as Haut de la Garenne, which is now at the center of an investigation into claims of child killing and abuse spanning decades.

"It was like a horror camp, what happened during the war," Carpenter told CNN. "After the war, the state's doctor examined all the boys, and I was so undernourished, they only gave me two months to be alive."

The 76-year-old tells stories of terrible beatings in the home, of young boys disappearing without explanation.

Today, he says: "I always knew it would take a dead body for people to go looking for the secrets in that building."

On Saturday, police found the remains of a child at Haut de la Garenne. They suspect that there could be more.

Jersey is now facing its dark side.

More than 150 residents have told police that they were abused in the island's institutions.

Every day, a growing number of journalists passes on to the world new stories of sexual and physical suffering.

Some people on Jersey are now sharing secrets they've been carrying for years.

It's enough to drive locals to prayer. At a special church service, they reflected on how a child in the community's care could just disappear unnoticed.

"We're thinking about these children who didn't have anybody to miss them," resident Peggy Stevens said. "And we're here to pray for them."

Others are fighting over them. Jersey's politicians are divided over how this was allowed to happen -- and it's getting ugly.

Island Senator Stuart Syvret believes that some of his colleagues are more worried about the island's international reputation as a friendly tourist spot and offshore tax haven, something the government's chief minister denies.

Syvret blames what he calls a culture of covering up. But despite the large number of allegations and their long history, he insists that there's nothing sinister to the people of Jersey.

"The community is a good community. The people here are ordinary, decent people like everywhere else," Syvret said. "The failure here is in the island's government in its system of administration."

The island's government has backed the police in efforts to find out how many child abusers could still be living among the people of Jersey.

The results are already proving traumatic. But Chief Police Officer Graham Power sees their work as a necessary, bitter medicine.

He said: "This will be a hard time for Jersey, but when we get it through to the finish, we'll be a better society because of it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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