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Jersey children's home abuse probe arrest

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  • Jersey police say 68-year-old man arrested in children's home abuse probe
  • Man being questioned about a number of alleged rapes
  • More than a 100 people claim they were abused at Haut de la Garenne home
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Police on the picturesque island of Jersey in the English Channel detained a 68-year-old man Tuesday as part of their investigation into alleged abuses at a long-closed government-run children's home.

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A woman walks past the Haut de la Garenne children's home.

Spokeswoman Louise Nibbs said the man was helping authorities with their inquiries into "a number of historic rapes and indecent assaults."

But, Nibbs added, the man's detention was not "directly related" to the Haut de la Garenne children's home. Rather, he is part of a wider inquiry into abuses that authorities are investigating, she said.

"We can now also confirm that the alleged offenses in question took place in the 1960s and 1970s," she said. "We are not able to say at this time where the offenses took place."

Nibbs did not release the man's name or disclose any other details. The man has not been charged with a crime, Nibbs said.

Jersey is a British crown dependency, located 14 miles off the coast of Normandy near France.

In January, police arrested another man -- a former warden who was charged with three counts of indecent assault on underage girls in the late 60s and early 70s.

The man, 76-year-old Gordon Wateridge, has not entered a plea yet, Nibbs said.

The announcement in January that fragments of a child's skull had been discovered under a stairwell in the building has sparked more than 160 allegations of child abuse there dating back to the 1960s, authorities say.

The building opened in 1867 and housed up to 60 children at any one time. It underwent several renovations and closed in 1986 only to reopen as a youth hostel in 2004.

Possible clues to the abuse alleged to have occurred inside include writing found on a wall that "refers to somebody being bad," Jersey Deputy Police Chief Lenny Harper said in February. "We have no idea at the moment who put it there or, indeed, how long it's been there."

Police said much of what they found, including shackles, matches accounts given by witnesses. Several former residents allege they suffered physical and sexual abuse in a storeroom. Police suspect there could be four bricked-up chambers underground. Several alleged victims have talked about abuse occurring in a large concrete trough in the basement, which was originally the first floor of the building.

In February, authorities said they had compiled "well over 40" suspects who are alive, and a number of others who are dead.

The investigation has taken officials to Australia, Thailand, Germany and the British mainland.

Some of those who have reported abuse have taken their complaints to the news media.

"There was one occasion, in the sick bay, where I was made to fondle another boy -- if you didn't, you were threatened you wouldn't come out alive," said Carl Denning, who said he was taken to the home at the age of 5 and said one of his friends committed suicide after being raped there.

"You'd go to bed at night, sleeping, and all of a sudden your arms would be held down and the next thing you know you're getting raped," recalled Peter Hannaford, who spent the first 12 years of his life there. "You were subject to constant abuse. ... It was every night, and you were scared to go to bed."

Stuart Syvret, a local politician, told CNN the building had long been known "as a place where young boys were punished severely, where they suffered."

He alleged a "long-established culture of covering up alleged abuses" -- a claim the local government denies.

The investigation began in 2006, when police were alerted to the possibility that pedophiles had worked at the institution. That led to the discovery of the skull fragment.

The institution housed wards of the state -- primarily neglected and abandoned children. A remand wing housed children who had been convicted of crimes.

The allegations mar the carefully cultivated image the island's elite have tried to project. Jersey's beaches have made it a big tourist destination, and its offshore banks have made it a tax haven and a playground for the rich.

Eleven miles long and 9 miles wide, the island is populated by about 80,000 mostly white, affluent residents. Heavily influenced by the French, the largely autonomous island has its own legal system and its own currency. London manages only its defense and foreign policy matters. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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