Ministers and civil servants were at one point told to expect that up 15 bodies would be found at Haut de la Garenne, former States Chief Executive Bill Ogley has told the abuse inquiry.
The former States boss – who left the Island with a £546,337 “golden handshake” payout after a falling out with Senator Philip Ozouf – has also denied that he was involved in a conspiracy to get former Health Minister Stuart Syvret sacked from his role at the height of the abuse inquiry in 2008.
Mr Ogley was giving evidence to the inquiry yesterday, as it draws to the end of the phase of taking evidence from witnesses, and starts to shift into drafting the final report which is due by the end of the year.
And he told the inquiry that he had serious concerns at the time about the way that the police media strategy appeared to be “ramping up” what they had found – and that they had not made it clear that some of the more lurid headlines and speculation had not been justified.
In his statement to the inquiry, Mr Ogley wrote that as things progressed, he had become frustrated that the police were not explaining what was really going on.
His statement said: “The truth was that by this point the police knew that they had not found body parts, yet they refused to admit this publicly. I personally asked Graham Power on two separate occasions why they were not prepared to clarify this and I received no clear answer.
“This reinforced my views about there being a wider problem with the approach being taken to the investigation.
“Matters had ramped up to a level where we had been told that there were 15 bodies, that human body parts were being found and that the police were going to continue to dig in bunkers when though it transpired they had not actually worked out what they were dealing with body parts in the first place.
“When nothing came of that we were told that there were lime pits at Haut de la Garenne where bodies had probably been disposed of.
“No-one seemed to stop to ask whether there had really been body parts at all and whether anything of significance had been found.”
Speaking about allegations that he had tried to lead other senior civil servants into a conspiracy against former Senator Syvret, he was adamant that no such conspiracy had existed.
He said: “I have been referred to allegations that have been made that there was a ‘pincer movement’ involving simultaneous meetings of both the chief officers and the Jersey Child Protection Committee in order to garner support and maximise pressure for Stuart Syvret to be removed from ministerial office, and that I was involved in engineering such a movement.
“This is not true.”
But he was shown notes that former Police Chief Graham Power had taken after one key meeting of civil servants which contradicted his statement that he did not know that a vote of no confidence in Mr Syvret was being proposed at a simultaneous meeting of child protection staff.
Mr Power’s notes said that Mr Ogley had mentioned the other meeting – leading him to fear a wide conspiracy was being put together.
Mr Ogley said: “This is Mr Power’s contemporaneous note and I think it comes from the way Mr Power saw things and what other people said who were represented at the Jersey Child Protection Committee meeting.
“That is not something I would have said and it is not something that I did say. I remember saying Mr Power should participate in the discussion because the police were part of the overall governance workforce and these issues had and effect on them but I think that is a very different matter.”
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