Jail investigates paedophile priest's death

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The Independent US

Officials investigating the murder of a jailed paedophile priest were yesterday trying to find how a fellow inmate with a known hatred of homosexuals was able to get into his cell and strangle him without guards being alerted.

John Geoghan, who had been at the centre of the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the US, died on Saturday in hospital at the Souza-Baranowski Correction Centre in Shirley, Massachusetts. Lifer Joseph Druce, 37, is expected to be charged with his murder.

Geoghan, 68, who had been accused of molesting more than 130 people while serving as a priest in parishes in the Boston area, had been choked, said Kelly Nantel, a Massachusetts Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

He was being held in a special protective unit where he had only limited contact with other prisoners, and Ms Nantel refused to say if Druce and the former priest knew each other. "We can't release details because the district attorney's office is investigating," she said. Druce, serving life for murdering an elderly man in 1988, is being held in isolation, she added.

The Boston Globe reported that Druce, who changed his name from Darrin Smiledge, had a grudge against homosexuals and hated blacks and Jews. Druce's father, Dana Smiledge, said: "I can't understand why they would put a guy who would kill a sex offender in a cell with a sex offender."

The Boston Archdiocese called Geoghan's death tragic. Its lawyers are offering $65m (£41m) in negotiations with the priest's victims to settle hundreds of lawsuits. Geoghan, serving life for raping a child, was defrocked in 1998 and his prosecution uncovered a string of paedophile cases that forced Cardinal Bernard Law to resign last year as Boston's archbishop.

Some of Geoghan's victims wept at news of his death, others said he did not deserve to be murdered. Paul Baier, president of the victims' group Survivors First, said only the courts had the right to decide the fate of a criminal. "He wasn't convicted to die and if he was murdered in prison that was more than he was sentenced to," Mr Baier said. "I don't think this brings more solace to his victims."

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