A ROMAN Catholic priest has been suspended while an accusation he had a secret affair with a vulnerable parishioner is investigated.

Father Stephen Cooper is alleged to have admitted having a two-year affair with Kathleen Lardner before she took a fatal overdose 10 years ago.

Her son Matthew Higgenson contacted the Archdiocese of Liverpool earlier this year following an email allegedly sent to him by Father Cooper, aged 58, in which he confesses to the affair.

Father Cooper was working at St Richard's RC Church in Atherton at the time and conducted Miss Lardener's funeral.

Mr Higginson told a national newspaper this week that he learned about the affair 11 months after her death from an aunt who had seen a diary belonging to Miss Lardener.

But it was not until January this year that Mr Higginson felt strong enough to act and emailed the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

They suspended Father Cooper from St Joseph's RC Church in Leigh on Friday and he is no longer in the parish.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Liverpool: "Since he brought this matter to our attention we have been working with Mr Higginson to address the situation and ensure that appropriate action is taken.

"While this process remains ongoing alternative arrangements are in place for the pastoral care of the parish in Leigh."