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Mystery of nun found dead at bottom of water-tank may be reopened

A PJ investigation into alleged beatings and torture at a Portuguese convent may signal the way ahead for the reopening of 10-year-old ‘cold’ case, involving a 55-year-old nun found dead at the bottom of a water tank.

The dead woman’s family say they are determined to discover what happened to Maria Amélia Serra.

“I have few doubts that my sister’s death was provoked by the violence and humiliation to which she was subjected,” one of the dead woman’s brothers has told national tabloid Correio da Manhã, adding that he would “go all the way” to get justice for his sister.

“I will not rest until these people are punished for what they did,” he said.

The family affirms that Serra had never had any psychological problems, but from the day she entered Santa Luzia convent, in Requião, Vila Nova de Famalicão she was not authorised to visit her family alone.

Late last year, national media carried horror stories of a priest and “false nuns” at the convent beating novices and using them as slaves. The catalogue of abuse was alleged to have carried on for “the last 10 years”, which ties in with the date of Serra’s death – a death that was always shrouded by uncertainties.

According to local paper O Povo Famalicense, the nun’s body was found by two of the ‘novices’ that are believed now to be alleging stories of abuse.

An inquiry into her death however did not hear from either of the nuns. A superior nun attested to suicide, a depression, a hidden drink problem – and Serra’s death was eventually put down to suicide.

With the new investigation underway, and the convent’s 84-year-old priest and three ‘false nuns’ confirmed as “arguidos”, the dead nun’s family are pinning their hopes on the Public Ministry reopening the inquiry into Sister Maria Amérlia Serra’s death, even if it is to find that she committed suicide “in order to escape the abuse” – which, Público claims, is another possible theory.

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