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Book throws doubt on Vatican murders

The elite Swiss Guard is responsible for Vatican security. Swiss Guard

The mysterious circumstances surrounding the 1998 murder of the head of the Vatican's Swiss Guard and his wife are once again in the spotlight.

This content was published on September 14, 2002 - 10:41

A new book disputes the official Vatican version of what happened.

"Murdered in the Vatican, May 4 1998" was written by two French lawyers, Jacques Vergès and Luc Brossollet, who are representing the family of Cédric Tornay, the Swiss guard accused of the murders.

The book refutes the Vatican's version, according to which Tornay shot guard commander Alois Estermann and his wife, Gloria, in a "moment of madness" after being denied military decoration, before turning the gun on himself.

The authors believe instead that Tornay was murdered because of something he saw or knew and have asked the Vatican to reopen the case.

Luc Brossollet, lawyer and co-author of the new book, has spent four years researching the case.

Cover-up

He believes the 23-year-old Tornay was innocent and that the crime scene was set up to look like a double murder and suicide.

"He was shot by someone and by a person who also killed Estermann and his wife," Brossollet told swissinfo.

"But we do not know who. What we do know is that some people in the Vatican know more about this case than they want to say."

Brossollet has accused the Vatican of shrouding the case in secrecy. He says that Tornay's mother, Muguette Baudat, has been repeatedly denied access to the Vatican inquiry into her son's death.

"It would be very easy for the Vatican authorities to say to Mrs Baudat 'you can come in the Vatican and have a look at all the files and you will see that we have all the proof'," said Brossollet.

"But if the Vatican doesn't want to do this, it is because the Vatican is not sure at all what happened on May 4, 1998."

Brossollet says there are several reasons why the family and the legal team do not believe the Vatican's version of events.

Second autopsy

The first reason is that, according to Brossollet, the results of a second autopsy on Tornay's body, carried out in Lausanne, differ significantly from the Vatican autopsy.

"We are sure that Cédric didn't die in the position that the Vatican authorities said he did."

"They say that he was kneeling and his head fell a little bit forwards. We know from the Swiss autopsy that when he died, Cedric's head fell behind," explained Brossollet.

When contacted by swissinfo, the pathologist, Professor Thomas Krompecher, of the Lausanne University forensic medicine institute, declined to comment on the second autopsy, saying that he was unauthorised to do so.

The position of Tornay's head is one of the factors that Brossollet says proves that Tornay was murdered.

The lawyer also says that a suicide letter allegedly written by Tornay to his mother was false, based on tests on handwriting samples and details in the letter.

Motives

If Tornay didn't murder the Estermanns, why were they killed? Rumours circulating soon after the deaths suggested that Estermann was a former East German spy.

There were also suggestions that there had been an affair between Gloria Estermann and Tornay, or a homosexual relationship.

Tornay's mother has said that she believes Estermann's death to be linked to an internal Vatican power struggle. Estermann foiled an assassination attempt on the Pope in 1981.

For its part, the Vatican has said in a statement that it is looking into reopening the case, but that Brossollet and Vergès' allegations are offensive, groundless and utterly unacceptable.

swissinfo, Isobel Johnson

vatican summary

The head of the Swiss Guard, Alois Estermann, and his wife were found murdered on May 4 1998.
Estermann had been appointed just days before.
Swiss guard, Cédric Tornay, whose body was found next to theirs, was thought to have carried out the double murder before killing himself.

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vatican

A new book refutes the official Vatican version concerning the 1998 murder of the head of the Swiss guard and his wife.

The Vatican says that Alois Estermann and his wife were murdered by Cédric Tornay in a "moment of madness" and that Tornay then committed suicide.

But lawyers representing Tornay's family say that he was in fact murdered and the Vatican organised a cover-up.

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