Page last updated at 19:07 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Shamed priest found dead at home

Father Gerry Nugent, pictured outside St Patrick's
Fr Nugent was sentenced to community service for contempt of court

A shamed parish priest who committed contempt of court during serial killer Peter Tobin's first murder trial has been found dead.

The body of Father Gerry Nugent, the former priest of the church where Angelika Kluk was murdered, was found by a housekeeper on Tuesday morning.

He was 66 and appeared to have suffered a heart attack.

Fr Nugent was a key witness in the 2007 trial of Tobin, who was jailed for life for raping and murdering Ms Kluk.

The 23-year-old's mutilated body was found in September 2006 under the floorboards of St Patrick's Catholic church in Glasgow, where Fr Nugent was the priest.

Tobin had been working there as a church handyman, under an assumed name.

He wrote to me just before Christmas to let me know he was finding contentment in his retirement
Archbishop Mario Conti

During the trial, Fr Nugent claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Ms Kluk, a Polish student who was working in Scotland and lived at the church's chapel house.

The Dublin-born priest, who was forced to resign from his post at St Patrick's after the trial, said he felt "shame" and "disgust" with himself and admitted he had abused the position of trust he was in.

The self-confessed alcoholic was also found guilty of contempt of court because he did not give straight answers in the witness box during the trial.

Fr Nugent, who gave evidence over four days, changed his story during three separate phases of evidence.

He was sentenced to 100 hours' community service and placed on probation for one year by judge Lord Menzies.

At the time, the Catholic Church issued an apology over the priest's behaviour.

The Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti, said he was "shocked and saddened" at the news of the death.

Angelika Kluk
Tobin raped and murdered Angelika and buried her body below St Patrick's

Archbishop Conti acknowledged that the priest's ministry would always be connected to events surrounding Ms Kluk's death but he praised the work he carried out over his many years in the priesthood.

In a statement, he said: "I am shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Fr Nugent.

"He wrote to me just before Christmas to let me know he was finding contentment in his retirement.

"Though his ministry will be forever linked to the terrible events surrounding the death of Angelika Kluk and his own shortcomings which were laid bare at the time, it would be impossible to ignore the enormous compassion and pastoral care which marked his priesthood.

"Perhaps his own vulnerability made him particularly attentive to the most vulnerable in our society: the homeless, those beset with addictions and the rejected."

A post-mortem examination will be carried out but it is believed no suspicious circumstances surround the death.

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