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Dutch institute reviewing ’50s deaths

Associated Press / August 19, 2011

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AMSTERDAM - A Dutch Catholic institute for disabled girls said yesterday that it will review 40 deaths at the children’s home in the early 1950s.

The review comes days after prosecutors began a criminal investigation into 34 deaths at a former Catholic boys’ institute in the same town and the same time period.

The mysterious rash of deaths in the two children’s homes nearly 60 years ago came to light during a search of Catholic church archives by a commission investigating possible sexual abuse.

There is no evidence that the unusual number of deaths over a three-year period in the small southern town of Heel was ever investigated for common threads or links to each other.

Guus Feron, director of the St. Anna’s girls institute, said his organization will scour its archives for information about the girls, though he was unsure of what might be found.

The institute routinely destroyed dossiers 15 years after residents left or died.

He said one possibility would be finding records of a contagious illness.

Eugene Baak, spokesman for the regional public prosecutor’s office, said the girls’ deaths are not thought to be suspicious, despite the higher numbers.

Dutch media have reported that the priest who oversaw the sick ward of St. Joseph’s during those years was dismissed abruptly after a complaint by a doctor.

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