Boys in 1950s mental institution died of natural causes

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The deaths of 34 boys in a Catholic institution in the early 1950s were all due to natural causes according to their death certificates. Half of the boys who lived in St Joseph's home for mentally handicapped children in the town of Heel in the Dutch province of Limburg died of infectious diseases according to regional television station L1.

L1 and NOS had requested information on the causes of the boys' deaths from the CBS. Earlier this month, the Deetman Commission, which is looking into cases of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, asked the Public Prosecution to look into deaths as there were peaks in the number of fatalities in the boys' home in 1952, 1953 and 1954.

The information on the deaths is from the Dutch statistics office CBS, which bases its findings on the death certificates of the boys. According to public broadcaster NOS the doctor noted natural causes in all cases. L1 reports that birth defects, cancer and heart disease were also noted as causes of death. All the boys were teenagers under the age of 18. The were also peaks in the number of deaths at a girls' home for mentally handicapped children in the same town, but these cases are not under investigation.

The home had a poor reputation as boys were made to work long hours without pay making bicycle lights for Philips. They were also made to work at night.

So far the Public Prosecution has not commented on its ongoing investigation into the deaths.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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