Sunday, 4 October 2009

'We have not a shred of evidence . . . '

THE TRUTH, IT WOULD seem, is finally out. As the result of the publication of another article by David Rose in the Mail on Sunday, we now know a great deal more about why Lenny Harper, the officer in charge of the Haut de la Garenne investigation in Jersey, embarked upon his sensational excavation of the grounds of the former children's home. Thanks to Rose and to Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gradwell, who took over the reins of the investigation from Harper when he retired last August, we also know that there were very good reasons for not digging. These reasons were set out by a senior Jersey police officer just eleven days before the dig began.

On 12 February 2008 the senior officer in question made his own sober assessment of the state of the evidence in an email to Jersey forensic services manager Vicky Coupland. There was, in his view, no reason even to contemplate embarking on an excavation. 'We have not a shred of evidence to suggest there is anything there,' he wrote.

According to any 'reasoned assessment', the officer in question went on to write, it was hard to see how a child could have been buried in concrete in an institution full of children. There was also the near inevitability that any excavation would throw up a series of false trails which could only have the effect of diverting the inquiry from its real object - that of investigating allegations of sexual abuse, 'There is going to be blood from spotty teenagers,' the officer wrote in his email. 'We could end up being massively distracted by small bits of blood that have no relevance. In all the statements and intelligence we have not even a suggestion that there may be or have been bodies.'

So what was the identity of this senior Jersey police officer, who assessed the folly of embarking on an excavation so soberly and so well? Curiously enough it was none other than Lenny Harper himself.

Given Harper's momentary wisdom, the question which needs to be answered is how it was that he came to change his mind. Since Harper's original instincts were so sound, whose forensic intelligence took over and eventually came to drive the entire investigation? The picture at the beginning of this post provides a clue. For more details read David Rose's article.