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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 August, 2003, 03:19 GMT 04:19 UK
Paedophile priest killed in jail
John Geoghan
John Geoghan was believed to have attacked more than 130 children
A former priest convicted of child sex abuse has been killed in prison in the United States.

John Geoghan, a central figure in the Catholic Church's abuse scandal in Boston, was injured in an incident with another inmate at the Souza-Baranowski Correction Center, in Shirley, Massachusetts, according to jail officials.

He died shortly after being taken to Leominster Hospital. Authorities say Geoghan appeared to have been strangled and fellow prisoner Joseph Druce, serving a life sentence, will face murder charges in relation to the death.

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.

She said the incident was under investigation, but declined to give further details.

The former priest, 67, was given a six-year prison sentence last year for molesting a 10-year-old boy.

The BBC's Jane Standley in New York said the accusations against Geoghan went back more than 30 years and documents which were revealed in court sparked the scandal which has shrouded the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

They showed that his superiors knew of the complaints against him, but they covered them up and moved him repeatedly to new parishes in the Boston area.

He was believed to have attacked more than 130 children over the last three decades.

Shock

Churchgoers in Boston were shocked by the revelations about the extent of sexual abuse by priests.

As the abuse came to light, more people came forward, alleging abuse by scores of other priests. More than 300 priests resigned or were removed from their duties as a result - including the Boston Cardinal Bernard Law.

Many of my clients would have rather seen Father Geoghan serve out his time in jail and endure the rigours of further criminal trials
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian
Geoghan's case eventually resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement with 86 of his alleged victims.

Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for many of Geoghan's alleged victims told Reuters news agency that he was "surprised and shocked" by the former priest's death.

"Many of my clients would have rather seen Father Geoghan serve out his time in jail and endure the rigours of further criminal trials, so that his paedophile acts could have been exposed further," he said.

Mr Garabedian said that since 1994 he had been approached by 147 people claiming to have been sexually abused by Geoghan. He said there were outstanding cases against the former priest.

"The two potential criminal cases that may have been brought forward are now going to be closed, but I don't think the civil cases will be adversely affected by his death," he said.

Spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, the Reverend Christopher Coyne, offered prayers for Geoghan's family, and for the repose of his soul.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Bill Hayton
"More than 130 people claimed they'd been abused by him"



SEE ALSO:
Cardinal testifies at abuse probe
25 Feb 03  |  Americas
Vatican bows to public opinion
13 Dec 02  |  Americas
Timeline: Boston sex scandal
13 Dec 02  |  Americas


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