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No evidence of crime at orphanage where 400 children 'buried'

Bodies are believed to be in mass grave at St Mary's Cemetery in Lanark.

Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark closed in 1981.
Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark closed in 1981. STV

Prosecutors have said there is no evidence that a crime has been committed at an orphanage where the bodies of hundreds of children were reportedly buried in a mass grave.

At least 400 children from Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark are thought to be buried in an unmarked grave at the town's St Mary's Cemetery.

The orphanage, run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, was home to more than 10,000 children between opening in 1864 and closing in 1981.

Research carried out by the BBC and Sunday Post of death records found that most of the children died of natural causes between 1870 and 1930 from common diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and pleurisy.

Scotland's Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and Police Scotland said they "recognise the level of public concern" following the reports but that there is currently no evidence of criminal activity.

Smyllum Park Orphanage is one of the institutions being examined by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry with allegations surrounding the mass grave expected to be studied later this year.

Representatives of The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul gave evidence to the inquiry in June and said they could find no evidence of abuse.

A joint statement from COPFS and Police Scotland said: "COPFS and Police Scotland recognise the level of public concern following media reports about Smyllum Park Home, including reports that children were buried in unmarked graves.

"COPFS and the police are responsible for the investigation of crime and the investigation of sudden, suspicious and unexplained deaths.

"Based on the information currently available, there is no evidence to suggest a crime has been committed, or that any deaths require to be investigated, but that position will be kept under review.

"Any allegations of criminality will be thoroughly and sensitively investigated."

The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul told the Sunday Post in a statement: "We wish to again make clear that, 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."

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