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What really happened at Haut de la Garenne, the children's home at the centre of the Jersey care scandal last year? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report on a building that still houses some very dark secrets
How Jersey's tourism bosses must have lamented the marketing slogan they chose last year: "Small enough to really get to know, yet still big enough to surprise."
It was supposed to mark a campaign to rejuvenate the holiday business.
Instead, it served to highlight a child abuse scandal that erupted on the island.
The story had first trickled out in November 2007, gaining almost no press attention. Following a covert police inquiry into allegations of mistreatment in the island's care homes, police and the NSPCC in London had appealed to former residents to come forward. By January 2008, hundreds were said to have made contact, reporting physical and sexual abuse, mostly at Haut de la Garenne, a grim, Victorian industrial school that had, until the mid-80s, served as Jersey's main children's home. Soon, Jersey was in the grip of one of the largest police child abuse inquiries seen anywhere in Britain.
How would the tiny island and its 88,000 residents hold up? They pride themselves on their traditionalism (the pound note survives here) and an independent spirit that locals refer to as the Jersey Way. The mantra, reflecting a closed community that knows how to look after itself, is credited with transforming the place from a bourgeois bucket-and-spade resort in the 50s into the oyster-shucking tax haven it is today. So potent is the lure of the island's low-tax, non-intrusive regime that the level of wealth required of prospective settlers has risen to stratospheric levels: only those who can pay a residency fee of about £1m and show assets in excess of £20m need apply. The lucky few include racing driver Nigel Mansell, golfer Ian Woosnam, broadcaster Alan Whicker and writer Jack Higgins, as well as hundreds of reclusive tycoons, who have made the island the third richest compact community in the world, after Bermuda and Luxembourg.