York Minster was in mourning today after one of its faithful servants plunged 100ft from one of its towers to his death in full view of horrified tourists.

John Robert Angus, 59, who had been a verger at the cathedral for 25 years, was killed instantly when he hit the pavement near the West Door.

Police and paramedics rushed to the scene and the Dean of York, the Very Reverend Keith Jones, said prayers over the body along with Canon Precentor Jeremy Fletcher.

Mr Angus, a former teacher, fell to his death from a balcony on the north-west balcony just before 2.30pm on Sunday.

A bachelor, he lived on nearby Bootham and had been a full-time verger at the Minster since October 1980.

Exactly how he fell remained a mystery yesterday and Dean Jones said: "We may never know what happened."

The balcony from which he fell is not open to the public and the door leading to it is usually kept locked unless someone is working there.

Dean Jones said: "We are all facing the loss of a very valued friend and colleague and there have been no signs evident to us of oddity in his behaviour.

"He was the same person to the end."

The area where Mr Angus fell was sealed off until 5pm while investigators worked at the scene and took statements from passers-by.

Just a few hours after Mr Angus's death prayers were said to "commit him to God" at the Minster's Evensong service.

Mr Angus was originally a teacher in London and the Midlands and later taught science at evening classes in York.

Before taking up his post at the Minster he worked as an excavation assistant at the major Coppergate archaeological dig which eventually led to the creation of the Jorvik centre.

In 1993 he wrote a book of poems, Cathedral in View, which was inspired by his place of work.