Italian police said they found photos depicting several nuns in lewd poses on the computer of a priest under investigation for the disappearance of a Tuscan housewife.

Father Gratien Alabi, 45, told detectives the half-naked women in the pictures were nuns with whom he entertained friendly relations, Ansa news agency reported.

He said he met the religious women in real life, before starting an online correspondence with them.

The clergyman is a suspect in the disappearance of Guerrina Piscaglia, a 50-year-old woman who vanished from her village of Cà Raffaello, near Arezzo in May.

The married mother-of-one was a parishioner at the church ran by Alabi and another priest.

Police, however, suspect there was more to their relationship and said the two had exchanged a high volume of text messages and phone calls, including on the day of her disappearance, Italian media reported.

Alabi is accused of aiding and abetting a kidnapping or murder and has been banned from leaving Italy, pending the investigation.

The priest has appealed the measure, which prevents him from taking up a new assignment in the town of Saint Cloud, France.

Piscaglia's husband, Mirko Alessandrini, is also being investigated for making false statements to authorities.