16 August 2011
The Dutch Public Prosecution Office is investigating the deaths of 34 boys in the early 1950s in an institution for the mentally handicapped in the southern province of Limburg. The deaths were reported by the Deetman commission, which is investigating the sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic church.
Roman Catholic monks were responsible for the care of mentally-handicapped children in the former St. Joseph institute in the town of Heel near Roermond. The investigation of archives by the Deetman Commission has revealed that the number of deaths in the early 1950s was much higher than average in the institution. This information was known in at the end of the same decade to the diocese of Roermond, the government’s Labour Inspectorate, the former Catholic Alliance for the Protection of Children and possibly to the health inspectorate, reports regional daily.
The Public Prosecution Office refuses to comment on the causes of the 34 deaths. Although it has indicated to the that due to the lapse of time no prosecutions can take place if any crimes were committed. The PPO wants to investigate what caused the deaths “with a view to the impact and extent of the case.” It is possible that the deaths were connected to sexual abuse.
Both the Public Prosecution Office and the Deetman Commission have declined to comment on how the suspicious deaths came to light back in the 1950s. The Public Prosecution Office was not aware of the possible suspicious deaths of the 34 children. It is not known whether there was a conscious effort on the part of the church or other organisations to cover up the affair a half century ago.