Jersey abuse rumours were rife: Ulsterman
Portadown native tells of horror on his doorstep
Published 29/02/2008 | 10:16
A Portadown-born entertainer who lives within 200 yards of the former children's home in Jersey at the centre of child abuse, torture and murder claims says the community is shocked "but not totally surprised".
Charlie Douglas - who has lived on Jersey for almost two decades - said the island has for years been rife with rumours of child abuse and cruelty.
He went on: "The man who tried to expose what he saw as an injustice (former minister for health and social services Stuart Syvret) has been sacked for voicing his concerns."
Mr Syvret claimed that children were routinely punched in the head, flogged with birch canes and locked in solitary confinement for days or weeks.
He also stated that others were sexually attacked, leaving them with deep psychological scars.
Charlie Douglas - who spent years on the national showbusiness circuit as comedian Charlie Daze - is married to Patrice, who was brought up in Jersey and who lived through the rumours of abuse surrounding the Victorian building Haut de la Garenne, which ceased to be a children's home in the 1990s.
Charlie often used the building - which is now a youth hostel - for the soccer school he set up when he moved to Jersey (he is a fully-qualified football coach).
He also acted in the famous series Bergerac that starred John Nettles - Charlie played an electrician involved in a murder plot.
The building was used as police headquarters in Bergerac and Charlie has used it regularly in his show business and football coaching roles.
"The place has been swarming with police and the media after the skeleton was found at the weekend," said Charlie, who lives in the St Martin's parish of Jersey with Patrice and two of his three sons - the third has moved to the capital St Helier.
"There are fears the skeleton will be the first of many and the search is scheduled to last for weeks."
The building began its life in 1867 as an industrial school for "young people of the lower classes of society" who were rewarded for good behaviour, but flogged and locked in solitary confinement for poor behaviour.
In 1900 it was renamed the Jersey Home for Boys, and during the German Occupation in World War Two was used as a signal station by the Germans.
It is now the island's first youth hostel.
"But what becomes of it after this is anyone's guess," said Charlie Douglas.
"The place is rife with rumours of many bodies being buried there, and we simply don't know what the next few days and weeks will bring forth."
Charlie was a member of a family of 13 brought up in the Edgarstown area and played football for Portadown before moving to England and entering showbiz.
He sprang to prominence in 1978 when he won Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks and went on to appear on a clutch of TV shows, mostly notably The Comedians with the likes of Frank Carson, Bernard Manning and Charlie Williams.
But 20 years ago - after many summer seasons in Jersey - he and Patrice decided to move from their then-home in the Midlands and settle in her home island of Jersey.
"Patrice was born and brought up in St Martin's, close to the Haut de la Garenne building," he said. "We live virtually within a two-minute walk of it.
"The veil of secrecy is about to be lifted from Jersey society in a major way, and there is no knowing where it will lead."