A FORMER Catholic priest has died while awaiting trial for allegedly sexually abusing almost 40 young children.
The Leader can reveal David Joseph Perrett was being treated in an Armidale care facility and died last week - six months out from his trial for more than 100 allegations of historical sex abuse.
The 82-year-old had been on bail and was receiving treatment for a multitude of medical conditions.
The Leader understands he died from natural causes. A court heard last year he was given between six and 12 months to live by his treating doctor after his diagnosis.
It's understood police were notified on July 2 that Perrett had passed away earlier that morning.
The ex-priest had denied more than 100 charges against him, accused of sexually abusing or molesting children while he was serving as a priest in the New England North West.
The Leader understands New England police - under Strike Force Bennett - have now contacted more than 40 complainants who came forward, to notify them of Perrett's death.
It's expected the DPP will now mention the charges in Armidale District Court to notify the judge of his death, before the case is formally dismissed.
The strike force had been set-up to investigate the long list of complaints against the retired clergyman.
In 2017, detectives moved on the case, travelling to Wallangara - where Perrett was living at the time.
In May that year, the Leader revealed Perrett's extradition to NSW from Queensland to face historical sex abuse charges.
He was charged at Armidale police station before dozens more complainants came forward claiming they had been abused at the hands of the retired priest.
It was the Crown case that Perrett had sexually abused the children while he was serving as a priest in the Armidale, Walcha, Guyra and wider New England area, stretching from the 1960s to the mid-1990s.
The alleged victims were aged between three and into their teens.
Perrett had denied every single allegation against him, and pleaded not guilty to the long list of charges late last year.
Perrett served close to eight months in custody before he was granted bail in the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney in April 2019.
After medical evidence was tendered in court, Perrett was bailed to live with family in Armidale up until he was moved into permanent care.