Sept. 11 (UPI) — The bodies of at least 400 children are believed to be buried in a mass grave in Scotland after an inquiry into child abuse at an orphanage run by Catholic nuns.
Records indicate that the Smyllum Park orphanage deaths, most of which occurred between 1870 and 1930, appear to be from diseases such as tuberculosis, flu and scarlet fever, reported the Sunday Post. Deaths also occurred from accidents and malnutrition.
“It is heartbreaking to discover so many children may have been buried in these unmarked graves. After so many years of silence, we must now know the truth of what happened here,” said former First Minister Jack McConnell.
The high infant mortality rate at the orphanage, which closed in 1981 and was operated by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, has raised concerns about conditions there.
Frank Docherty and Jim Kane, two former residents of the orphanage who worked to expose child abuse there, had found a smaller unmarked grave in 2003. Both men died last year. But further investigation by the Sunday Post and BBC’s Radio 4 revealed the larger grave.
“Oh my God, I’ve got goose pimples. It’s shocking,” said Frank Docherty’s widow, Janet. “He had been trying for years to find a figure and he didn’t get anywhere. That’s unbelievable.”
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is officially investigating the former orphanage on claims of child abuse.
In a statement, the Daughters of Charity told the BBC they are “cooperating fully” with the investigation.
“As Daughters of Charity our values are totally against any form of abuse and thus, we offer our most sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse whilst in our care,” the organization said.