Father Gerry Nugent, the former priest at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the city where Ms Kluk’s body was found hidden beneath the floor in September 2006, was discovered yesterday morning by his housekeeper who had come to collect washing at his home in Govan.

Fr Nugent, who was 66, had no major previous health problems but the Catholic Church said it appeared he had suffered a heart attack.

Police confirmed last night there were no suspicious circumstances.

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Mario Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow, 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.

“He was a kind and welcoming pastor for four decades in Glasgow and his loss will be mourned by many within and far beyond the Catholic community.

“I express my sincere condolences to Fr Nugent’s family in their loss.”

Fr Nugent operated an open doors policy at his church in the Anderston district of Glasgow and gave work and accommodation to Peter Tobin – who passed himself off as a handyman called Pat McLaughlin while on the run – as well as 20-year-old Angelika.

When she went missing and later when her body was discovered Fr Nugent, who had a prominent role in the Anderston community, took a lead role in appealing for information.

However, the priest admitted in his evidence at Tobin’s trial to a long-standing drink problem and having had sex with a number of women.

Fr Nugent told the jury he had sex with Angelika three or four times, that he was “sexually intimate” with a parishioner and after the trial admitted to a string of affairs with members of his congregation. Strathclyde Police were also aware that Fr Nugent would often trawl Glasgow’s red-light districts and he later spoke of picking up prostitutes and engaging in “sexual fumbling with them” in the parochial house.

He was also questioned twice by police over the murder of vice girl Emma Caldwell, as well the murder of prostitute Leona McGovern in 1995, while it later emerged that the late Cardinal Thomas Winning confronted the priest following anonymous allegations of a sexual assault in 1993.

Just hours after the end of the Kluk trial, Archbishop Conti was forced to issue a public apology.

He said that while Fr Nugent’s open house policy at St Patrick’s had resulted in many needy people being helped over the years, his conduct had fallen “well short” of that expected of every priest.

Although he resigned immediately he later gave masses at his home in Govan with several people in attendance and although the church said it would rather he performed mass on his own it insisted there was nothing to prevent him celebrating mass in his house.

His final humiliation came when he was found guilty of making a false statement during the Kluk trial.

However, he avoided a prison sentence despite his prevaricating in court because of the traumatic events, the pressure he was under and a psychiatrist’s report.

Lord Menzies put Fr Nugent on probation for a year and ordered him to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid community work after hearing his defence lawyer say that “he was and is flawed but he has done much good work”.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm the death of a 66-year-old man at an address in the Govan area.

“There appear to be no suspicious circumstances and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.”