Letter may shed light on Vatican shootings

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The Independent Online
A LETTER sent from a tormented son to his mother may explain the motive behind the fatal shootings in the Vatican on Monday of the newly appointed commander of the Papal Swiss Guard, Colonel Alois Estermann, and his wife Gladys Meza Romero, by the guardsman Cedrich Tornay.

But the Vatican has refused to divulge the contents of the letter, and Tornay's mother yesterday told Italian state radio that no letter had yet reached her. According to the Vatican, Tornay handed the letter to a fellow guardsman 90 minutes before shooting the Estermanns dead in their apartment, then turning the gun on himself.

Tornay, 23, who had served in the Pope's personal security corps for three years, was bitter over reprimands from Col Estermann, and disappointed that he had not been included in the list of guards to be honoured in a ceremony scheduled to take place yesterday.

That celebration was cancelled following the shootings. Instead, relations and friends of guardsmen, who had gathered in Rome, attended a Papal audience in which the Pope recalled Col Estermann's "great faith and his dedication to duty". They were also present for the funeral service for the Estermanns' held in St Peter's basilica yesterday.

Rules forbidding church commemoration for suicide cases will be waived to allow a private funeral service for Tornay in St Anne's chapel inside the Vatican this afternoon.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said yesterday that post-mortem examinations carried out inside the Holy See showed Col Estermann suffered two bullet wounds through the head and shoulder, his wife one through the left shoulder, and that Tornay died from a shot through the mouth.

The post-mortem examinations confirmed the official sequence of events announced after the incident. The Holy See could now be "morally certain" Tornay had killed his commanding officer and his wife in a "fit of madness".