Friday, January 24, 2003

Journalist writes book on the 1998 murder-suicide of a Vatican Swiss Guard and his wife

The commander of the Swiss Guard, the force entrusted with protecting the pope, and his Venezuelan-born wife were found dead in their apartment within the Vatican walls. A few feet away, a young corporal in the Guard, 23-year-old Cedric Tornay, also lay in a pool of blood. According to the Vatican's investigation, Tornay had committed the murders, then killed himself. The act was the result of a "fit of madness," brought on by the decision of the commander, Colonel Alois Estermann, to refuse a medal to Tornay - a medal Tornay had been counting on to secure his future in civilian life.

The author began to have his doubts about the Vatican's official version, however, after reading about the crimes in various Italian newspapers:

"The newspapers ascribed the deaths to an 'act of madness' on the part of the young guard, Cedric Tornay, or to jealousy and an illicit love affair between him and the commander's wife, Meza Romero," writes Follain. "One writer referred vaguely to 'peculiar aspects' of the relationships between the three; another saw the hand of a fanatical member of a sect intent on making its mark on the eve of the 'Holy Year,' which the Pope had announced would take place in two years' time, and which would bring millions of pilgrims to Rome. In the four years I had lived and worked as a journalist in the city, no other event at the heart of the Catholic Church had prompted so many different interpretations in so short a time."

According to the author, who devoted three years to investigating the crimes, there was, indeed, a love affair - but it was between the corporal and the colonel.

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