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Declaration on Death of Swiss Guards Commander

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 1998 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following declaration shortly after midnight last night:

"The Captain Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guards, Colonel Alois Estermann, was found dead in his home together with his wife Gladys Meza and Vice-corporal Cedrich Tornay.

"The bodies were discovered shortly after 9 p.m. by a neighbor from the apartment next-door who was attracted by loud noises. From a first investigation it is possible to affirm that all three were killed by a fire-arm. Under the body of the Vice-corporal his regulation weapon was found.

"The investigation is being led by the magistrate of Vatican City State, Attorney GianLuigi Marrone, who gave orders for the immediate autopsy of the bodies, to be carried out this morning in Vatican City State, under the care of Professor Piero Fucci and Giovanni Arcudi, the medical-legal consultants of the administration of the health care services of Vatican City.

"The information which has emerged up to this point allows for the theory of a 'fit of madness' by Vice-corporal Tornay."

Alois Estermann was born in Gunzwil, in the canton of Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1954. An official of the Swiss Army, in 1980 he was appointed captain of the Pontifical Swiss Guards. He had a diploma in Theological Culture and spoke five languages. In 1983, he married Venezuelan, Gladys Meza Romero. Only yesterday, his appointment as new captain commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guards was announced.


Telegram on the Murder of the Commander of the Swiss Guards

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 1998 (VIS) - The following is the telegram, written in German and published this afternoon, from John Paul II to the parents of the Commander of the Swiss Guards, Alois Estermann, murdered with his wife yesterday in the Vatican.

"It is with deep sorrow that I learned the tragic news of the violent death of your son, the commander of the Swiss Guards and his beloved wife. In this humanly incomprehensible situation, I bring in prayer before God, the Lord of life and death, the questions and the distress which have tormented many people in these days. In the hope of the resurrection of the dead, I impart to you and to all those who grieve, my heartfelt apostolic blessing."


Afternoon Briefing on Death of Swiss Guard Commander

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 1998 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls held a briefing early this afternoon to provide journalists with further details on the deaths last evening in the Vatican of newly-named Swiss Guard Captain Commander Alois Estermann, 44, his wife Gladys, and vice- corporal Cedrich Tornay, 23.

He opened his remarks with a review of last night's events, recalling that shortly after 9 p.m., a neighbor of the Estermann's, drawn by noises from their apartment, discovered the three bodies in the entryway of their home. Only one weapon was found, a revolver belonging to vice corporal Tornay. It was a Swiss 9 mm caliber STIG 75. This weapon, issued to the Swiss Guards, was identified as belonging to Tornay by the serial number. The STIG 75 holds 6 bullets: only one remained in the cartridge when the weapon was found. Navarro-Valls stated that, as of 1:15 p.m. today, the autopsies were still underway. He did say that two bullets were found in Estermann's body. Additional information will be provided tomorrow.

The press office director then affirmed that what had first been a hypothesis on the cause of the apparent double murder-suicide, became more a more plausible hypothesis as facts emerged. He said that the theory of "a 'fit of madness' which developed in a mind in which lacerating thoughts were smoldering" was the most plausible explanation because of a number of factors which surfaced over the hours.

Those factors are:

  1. the weapon found under Tornay's body was his own Swiss-Guard issued revolver;
  2. The vice-corporal had complained to his friends that he felt rather bitter and thought that he was not being taken into consideration enough;
  3. At 7:30 p.m. yesterday Tornay gave a fellow Swiss Guard a letter, and told him to give it to his family.
  4. Colonel Estermann, on February 12 of this year, had admonished Tornay in writing because of "substantial infractions of the Swiss Guard Regulations (in concrete, for an unjustified overnight absence)";
  5. The vice-corporal had complained in recent days to his Guard friends about not being included in the list of names of those who were scheduled to receive honors during tomorrow's annual swearing-in ceremony. That ceremony has been cancelled.

Navarro-Valls added that Estermann's February letter to Tornay was "clear, courteous and firm."

The director emphasized that Alois Estermann, named only yesterday by the Holy Father as the new commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guards, was "a person of extraordinary human qualities, both professional and spiritual. His nomination was received with great satisfaction throughout the Corps. The Holy Father appreciated him in a particular way as he was by the Pope's side when he was shot in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. Since then he has travelled with the Holy Father very often, about 30 or 32 trips. His wife Gladys Meza was born in Venezuela on January 24, 1949. She had degrees in canon and civil law from the Lateran University."

Navarro-Valls stressed that "Alois was a very serene, generous, altruistic person. The Estermanns were a model couple, and were extraordinarily dedicated to charitable work and organizations."

Asked how the Holy Father had been informed of events, Navarro-Valls replied: "He was informed before he went to bed. I am told the Pope was very moved and visibly sad, and that he made many positive comments about Estermann, which unfortunately we cannot pass on to him."

The director said that Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano will preside at a funeral mass tomorrow at 5 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica at the Altar of the Cathedra. He pointed out that about 300 friends and relatives of the Swiss Guards arrived from Switzerland yesterday to attend tomorrow's swearing-in ceremony.

av Webmaster publisert 05.05.1998, sist endret 05.05.1998 - 21:31