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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 02:20 GMT 03:20 UK
'Priest killer' denounces paedophiles
Joseph Druce
Druce is already serving a life sentence for murder
A United States prison inmate accused of killing a former priest convicted of child sex abuse, has pleaded not guilty to murder at an appearance in a Massachusetts court.

After entering his plea, Joseph Druce shouted "Hold paedophiles accountable for their actions" and "Let's keep the kids safe" as he was led away, amid cheers from other suspects awaiting their turn in court.

Druce, 38, is accused of sneaking into John J Geoghan's cell in Souza-Baronowski Correctional Institute, trapping him inside, then strangling and beating him to death.

Defrocked priest Geoghan, a central figure in the Catholic Church's abuse scandal in Boston, was taken to hospital, but died shortly afterwards.

He had been sentenced to six years in prison last year for molesting a 10-year-old boy and was accused of molesting nearly 150 boys over 30 years.

Target of abuse

Prison officials told the Boston Globe newspaper that Geoghan had been "terrified" for his life throughout his stay at the prison and that he had been a target of abuse from both prisoners and guards.

John Geoghan
John Geoghan was believed to have attacked nearly 150 children

Department of Correction spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Geoghan had been held in protective custody to shield him from the general prison population, but he still had some contact with other inmates.

As the clerk read out the murder charge at the Worcester Superior Court, Druce nodded his head, before finally shrugging his shoulders and grinning at his lawyer as he said "Not guilty".

His defence attorney John LaChance says he is planning to argue that his client is insane.

Last week a letter by a person claiming to be Druce was published in a Massachusetts newspaper, in which the writer apologised to Geoghan's sister for the killing and saying that he had been abused as a boy.

Prison officials say the letter is probably genuine.

The writer described Druce as Geoghan's "exterminator" and said all paedophiles should be castrated.

Even if convicted of the killing, Druce is already serving a life sentence for the 1989 murder of a gay man and cannot be punished further as Massachusetts does not have the death sentence.

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