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True crime. Casually done.

Death in the Vatican: The Swiss Guard Murders

INTRO

Photo by form PxHere

It’s the evening of the 4th of May 1998.

Outside, a stubborn rain washes over the marble columns and travertine facades of central Rome.

A tall, strong, young man walks unfazed by the downpour, heading determinedly towards the building next to St Anna’s Gate.

An expert eye would spot the bulge protruding at the back of his trousers. A too expert eye could identify the bulge as belonging to a semiautomatic Sig Sauer 75 handgun.

It’s almost 8:45pm, and the young man is about to enter the building.

At 8:46pm, the phone rings in the Estermanns’ flat.

Mrs Gladys answers the call, but quickly hands over the receiver to her husband, Colonel Alois Estermann.

At the other end of the phone line, a family friend wants to congratulate Alois. Good job, mate! It doesn’t happen every day to be appointed commander of the Swiss Guard!

The phone then falls silent for a couple of seconds. The friend is puzzled, he can only hear some voices in the distance. It’s Gladys … and someone else.

Then, a bang. And then another. And then more.

4th of May 1998, just before 9pm. Death has landed in Vatican City.

THE SMALLEST ARMY

If you can dedicate only a few minutes of your attention to today’s story, here are the key elements. On the evening of the 4th of May 1998 three bodies were found inside the Swiss Guard’s officer lodgings, within the walls of the Vatican City State, adjacent to St Anna’s Gate.

The bodies belonged to:

Alois Estermann, Swiss national, aged 43. Appointed commander of the tiny Vatican Army that very day.

His wife, Gladys Meza Romero, Venezuelan, aged 49. Archivist at the Venezuelan Embassy to the Holy See.

Cedric Tornay, also Swiss, aged 23. Vice-corporal of the Swiss Guard.

The cause of death: multiple gunshot wounds, apparently shot by Tornay’s service pistol, a Sig Sauer 75.

The case was closed by the Vatican magistrature in February 1999.

The official version of the event was that Tornay had shot Estermann and his wife, before committing suicide. The motive was explained as the corporal bearing a grudge against his commander, which had erupted into a fit of rage.

Well, that’s the gist of it. If you have to go, feel free to do so.

Shame, though, because you would miss some pretty juicy alternative theories about the killings, some of which may actually be founded on more than wild conspiracies. More interestingly, they shed light on some of the plots and secrets which have been lurking for decades inside the Vatican City State.

Winston Churchill once described the largest country on Earth, the Soviet Union as

“A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”

But the same could be applied to the smallest country on Earth, the Vatican City State.

This tiny independent nation nested inside Rome, Italy, measures only 0.44 square km.

In US measurements, that’s 0.17 square miles.

The population is suitably minuscule: just 840 inhabitants.

In US measurements, that’s 840 inhabitants.

This Lilliputian elective Monarchy, ruled by His Holiness the Pope, can boast its own Government, its own judiciary, a police force – the ‘Vatican Gendarmerie’ – and of course its own army, the Swiss Guard.

This elite corps, numbering around 150 troops, has protected Popes since 1506. These soldiers are mostly known for their ceremonial role during official receptions and visits, where they can be seen marching in brightly coloured uniforms … allegedly designed by one Michelangelo!

The Swiss Guard does not shun modern gear, though. When acting as bodyguards to the Pope, they dress in standard grey suits and are equipped with radios, earpieces, firearms, and pepper spray.

But even when dressed like extras at a Renaissance fair, these soldiers should not be under-estimated, as joining their ranks is not easy.

New recruits must be Swiss nationals, catholic, with an irreproachable reputation. They should be male, aged 19 to 16, and at least 1.76 metres in height – or 5 ft 9 in. Most importantly, they must have successfully completed military training in Switzerland, a training course lasting 260 days.

They sign up for a period of at least 26 months, during which they receive a basic pay of 20,000 USD a year.

Which is rather low for Swiss standards. Plus, they must adhere to quite restrictive moral guidelines and perform gruelling shifts. These elements have contributed to widespread stress, tension, and resentment amongst the Guard – factors which may have played a role in the 1998 triple killing.

MURDERS IN THE VATICAN

Besides the Estermanns’ unnamed family friend on the phone, the first witness of the event was one of their neighbours, a nun.

After hearing the commotion coming from the Guard barracks, she noticed that her neighbours’ apartment’s door was open. The nun walked in, and the first thing she noticed was the copious amount of blood splattered all over the floor.

The nun immediately called for help. High ranking members of the Vatican Gendarmerie, alongside the Vatican’s spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, rushed to the scene.

They found the body of Alois Estermann, struck down with shots to the shoulder and face.

Gladys had been reached by a bullet to the torso.

The young vice-corporal Cédric Tornay had apparently kneeled, before slumping forwards to the ground. A round had entered via his mouth and he had an exit wound on the back of his head. The Sig Sauer pistol was found underneath his body.

Just before midnight, Navarro-Valls and his office issued the first press release:

“The information that has emerged so far suggest vice-corporal Cédric Tornay suffered a sudden fit of madness.”

These murders were the first violent deaths to happen inside the Vatican in the past 150 years. There has been much theorising that two Popes, Pius XI and John Paul I, may have been poisoned in 1939 and 1978 respectively.

But, again, that’s just speculation.

If we are talking confirmed assassinations, we have to go back to the 15th of November 1848.

That’s when an assassin stabbed in the throat Count Pellegrino Rossi, recently appointed Minister of the Police for the Papal States.

Following the ensuing enquiry, two men were executed and six more were incarcerated. But the case may not have been conclusively solved, as further research individuated at least another possible culprit.

In any case, it seems like the assassination was planned within pro-republican circles, who wanted to strike at the Papal government.

Rossi’s fate may have befallen his predecessor, Mr Odoardo Fabbri, had he not resigned in September 1848. Fun fact, Mr Fabbri was a very distant ancestor of yours truly. I can only thank that he dodged that bullet – or rather that dagger – so I could be born and mildly bore you with this aside.

But let’s return to our story.

On the 5th of May 1998, Vatican spokesman Navarro-Valls convened a press conference just outside the Vatican’s borders. He then proceeded to lay out what would become the official version of the events.

Vice Corporal Tornay rang Estermann’s doorbell, walked in, first killed the commander and then his wife with his service weapon, before pointing the barrel in his mouth and pulling the trigger for the last time.

When asked about the motive, Navarro-Valls spoke of a ’fit of madness’.

Apparently, Tornay had been reprimanded by Estermann back in February, as he had spent two nights of heavy drinking outside the Vatican walls without permission.

Because of this disciplinary incident, Tornay had been denied a medal of merit, which he was due to receive during a ceremony on May the 6th.

The Corporal had expressed his frustration in a letter to his mother, which was interpreted as a suicide note:

“After three years, six months and three days, they haven’t given me the [good service] medal, so I’ve just got to stop other injustices. . . That which I am about to do, I’m forced to do for the good of the Corps”

Navarro-Valls added some revealing details on the character of the Corporal. Apparently, he was quick to lose his temper, had difficulty in following orders and maintaining discipline.

His behaviour had become increasingly erratic in the days prior to the tragedy. He had smashed a chair in his quarters. He had paid three visits to a local tailor and to the Consulate of Mauritius – without a real reason.

This is how these events were described in a later official report, but if I am allowed to chip in … perhaps he was considering leaving behind this whole Swiss Guard gig and relocating to a tropical island? Perhaps wearing a tailored white linen suit?

Besides these questionable details, the Vatican enquiry found evidence that Tornay made frequent use of cannabis. And a later autopsy discovered that he suffered from a large ‘arachnoid cyst’ in his left frontal lobe.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, arachnoid cysts are fluid-filled sacs that may manifest next to the brain or spinal cord.

Primary arachnoid cysts are present at birth, resulting from developmental abnormalities that arise during the early weeks of gestation.

Secondary arachnoid cysts are less common, and may derive from a head injury, meningitis, or a brain tumour.

It is not clear from publicly available sources if Tornay suffered from a primary or secondary cyst.

In any case, typical symptoms of this ailment include headache, nausea, seizures, hearing and visual disturbances, vertigo, difficulties with balance and walking and generalised neurological dysfunction.

Thus, investigators claimed that the cyst may have played a role in Tornay’s erratic and unpredictable behaviour.

I should specify that the detail of the cyst emerged only months after the press conference.

Back in May, Italian journalists had immediately started to doubt the declarations spun by Navarro-Valls.

It seemed like Vatican officials had reached their conclusions far too soon. Were they a cover-up for some more unsavoury, even sinister, story?

AGENT WERDER

The first conspiracy theories emerged almost immediately, all of which were never substantiated.

Maybe it was a crime of passion! Cedric Tornay may have had an affair with Mrs Gladys, but it all ended badly.

Or maybe he was having an affair with Estermann. After the commander had started bedding another fellow Guard, Cedric had enacted his revenge.

Actually, scratch that! This was all a complex conspiracy, plotted by a cabal of Swiss noblemen. Traditionally, Swiss Guard commanders were selected among the aristocracy, but Alois Estermann was a lowly commoner – surely, he deserved to die! The deaths of Gladys and Tornay were collateral damage, part of a cover-up!

On the 8th of May German tabloid ‘Berliner Kurier’ came out with yet another conspiracy theory, one that actually had some meat around the bone.

According to the ‘Kurier’, Alois Estermann had once served as a double agent on the payroll of Stasi, the feared secret police of East Germany.

From 1979 to 1984, the Swiss Guard officer had filed seven reports back to Stasi, posted on the night train from Rome to Innsbruck, Austria. The German paper speculated that Estermann was the notorious agent ‘Werder’, a Stasi spy deployed beyond the iron curtain but never conclusively identified.

Was this theory even plausible?

Perhaps this is the right moment to provide more background about Commander Alois and his wife, lest they remain only two names listed under ‘victims’ in a newspaper column.

Let us start with Gladys Meza Romero.

Articles about the Vatican Murders tend to overlook Mrs Meza, focusing on the personalities of the two military men involved. But allow me to say that she was probably the most formidable character of this entire story.

Information on her life is hard to come by, but I stumbled upon some Spanish language articles, as well as a blog entry written by her goddaughter, Ms Yasmin Lopez.

Gladys was born into a large family in the small town of Urica, northeastern Venezuela. The Mezas were not particularly wealthy, so Gladys moved to Caracas, looking for a job. Here, she attended the local Police Academy, graduating as one of the first female officers in the country.

While serving in the force, Gladys made good use of her good looks and natural elegance: she started a parallel career as a fashion model, a career which eventually brought her to Italy.

Once in Rome, Gladys did not content herself with strutting across the catwalk. She enrolled in Law school at the Pontifical Lateran University, where she would eventually become a lawyer specialised in Canonical Law.

In parallel, Gladys attended Italian language classes at the Dante Alighieri institute. It was during one of these classes that she met and fall in love with a strapping Swiss officer: Alois Estermann.

Let’s now talk about the commander himself.

Alois had joined the Swiss Guard as a private in 1980, despite having served as a commissioned officer for four years in the Swiss Army.

On the 13th of May 1981, Alois was right next to Pope John Paul II, when Turkish gunman Ali Agca fired against the Pontiff.

Agca was a member of a Turkish islamist far-right organisation, ‘The Grey Wolves’, and claimed that his was a gesture to protest the imperialism of both the West and the USSR.

The attack was too sudden for Estermann to fully shield the Pope, who was badly wounded in the stomach and left hand. But his intervention may have saved John Paul’s life. From that moment on, the Pope and Estermann were particularly close.

According to journalist Ferruccio Pinotti

[Fer Roo Tcho Pee not tea]

this is why the Pontiff trusted Estermann with a special mission: travelling to Warsaw and Danzig, Poland, to coordinate the delivery of unidentified, sensitive supplies for the local catholic trade union, ‘Solidarnosc’ – ‘Solidarity’.

Whatever the nature of that material, it was destined to support the trade union in opposing the Polish communist regime.

Over the following years, Estermann rose through the ranks, becoming Lieutenant Colonel in 1989.

Allegedly, Estermann had been selling Papal secrets to the Stasi all the time. As a devoted Catholic and supporter of Papal policy towards the Soviet Bloc, Alois was not motivated by ideology, but simply by hard, cold cash. At that time, the salary of a Swiss Guard officer was a mere $900 a month – and he could have done with some extra income on the side.

I should clarify that links between the commander and the Stasi have never been conclusively proven.

However, this theory is not entirely fanciful.

Seven years after the killing, in September 2005, declassified documents from the Stasi archives would prove that the secret police had planted at least eight agents inside the Vatican, active from April 1974 to November 1989. Their main job was to keep tabs on the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Back then, he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Later, as Pope Benedict XVI. According to a Stasi file:

“Ratzinger is seen at the Vatican as one of the staunchest opponents of communism”

Which was enough of a motivation to spy on him!

Out of the eight agents, one was identified as a Benedictine priest, another as a religious journalist. But the identity of the other six remained elusive. Could one of them have been the infamous ‘Werder’? Could one them have been Alois Estermann?

And if so, what was the link to his violent death?

On the 9th of May 1998, the ubiquitous spokesman Navarro-Valls, shut down the speculations published by the German press:

“Here in the Vatican we’re not even considering such a hypothesis. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that lies have been written about an honest man.”

CASE CLOSED (?)

In February 1999, Vatican Judge Gianluigi Marrone officially closed the case.

He listed ten forensic medical reports, five reports from the Gendarmerie, 38 witness testimonies and several documents from official agencies – all supporting the initial conclusions communicated to the press as early as the 5th of May.

On the 7th of February, a Roman newspaper published an interview with the mother of Cédric Tornay, Mrs Muguette Baudat.

[Moo Get Boe Dat]

Understandably, she denounced the official enquiry which laid culpability on his son. According to her, the enquiry

“was rife with concealments, contradictions and lies, made in the attempt to hide an unspeakable truth”

She claimed to be in possession of several independent forensic reports which contradicted the dynamic of the event. But for the moment, she would not reveal them.

In November of the same year, more dissenting voices came forward. A group of disaffected Vatican priests, identified only as the ‘Disciples of Truth’, put forward a new theory in their book ‘Blood Lies in the Vatican’.

According to this theory, Alois Estermann and his wife were the victims of a power struggle to seize control of the Swiss Guard.

In one corner, a secretive Masonic lodge hiding inside the Roman Curia, i.e. the administrative body of the Holy See.

In the opposite corner, the influential and controversial Catholic movement Opus Dei.

[Oh Poohs Day]

According to the ‘Disciples’, Estermann and Gladys were on the side of the Opus Dei, allegedly engaging in secret international financial deals on their behalf.

Apparently, the opposing faction moved in for the kill just hours after Estermann’s appointment. A commando unit comprising a killer and two accomplices first attacked Tornay, shot him and hid his body in a cellar. They then murdered the Estermanns and dumped the corporal’s body in their apartment to stage the murder-suicide.

Fans of author Dan Brown will remember how he placed an Opus Dei Cardinal amongst the roster of baddies in his novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

However, he had the cheek and literary testicles to name this character Cardinal Aringarosa.

If you slightly alter the spelling of that name, you get

‘Aringa Rossa’

If you translate it from Italian, you get

‘Red Herring’

Hinting at the fact that he wasn’t the chief antagonist after all.

Were the allegations of the ‘Disciples of the Truth’ also a ‘red herring’?

My own two cents is that yes, they were. Again, there is no evidence to corroborate these allegations. And I found it peculiar that the man wo worked harder to push the official explanation of the murder-suicide was spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls.

As an active and vocal member of the Opus Dei, wouldn’t have been in his interest to expose this alleged rival Masonic group?

But I will resist the temptation to engage in further ‘behind-o-logy’.

Another book criticising the official enquiry was published in September 2002: Murdered in the Vatican by French lawyers Luc Brossollet and Jacques Vergès, hired by Tornay’s mother Mrs Baudat.

Vergès in particular is a heavy weight of the tribunal, having represented Algerian bombers, the terrorist «Carlos the Jackal,» the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, and Slobodan Milosevic

The two lawyers explained how Tornay’s body was transferred to Switzerland to be subjected to an independent autopsy, performed by forensic pathologist Thomas Krompecher.

Krompecher disputed some aspects of the first autopsy performed in the Vatican. According to that examination, Tornay’s body had slumped forwards, falling onto his gun. According to the Swiss autopsy, his head had fallen backwards instead.

And there is more.

According to the lawyers, the Swiss autoptic report found that Tornay’s wounds were compatible with 7mm rounds. But his Sig Sauer – the official murder weapon – chambered 9mm bullets!

And there is more!

The letter sent by Tornay to his parents before the killing was examined by an expert, who found some telling elements.

For example, the stationery used was only available to the Vatican Secretariat of State — and not to a Swiss Guard.

Tornay’s mother also pointed out that some of the word choices were not compatible with his son’s style. For example, the letter made references to the corporal’s sister by her first name. But the young Guard always referred to her by her nickname ‘Dada’.

All in all, these factors were enough for the lawyers to venture yet another explanation.

A killer had shot Estermann to silence his knowledge of the Vatican’s involvement in the arms trade.

Do you remember Alois’ secret mission in Poland, in 1981? He had to oversee the delivery of ‘sensitive cargo’ to anti-communist trade union ‘Solidarity’ in Poland …

Apparently, that cargo consisted of military equipment!

So, another book, another theory, with little evidence.

And it would not be the last.

In October 2004 French journalist Victor Guitard

[Guitar]

published his work ‘The Vatican’s Secret Agent’. The bulk of this volume is an interview with a priest, Giovanni Saluzzo.

[Joe Van Nee Saloo tsoh]

This prelate belonged to a sort of unofficial secret service within the Catholic clergy, the ‘Fellowship of Pius’, founded in 1907. The aim of the fellowship was to identify and report clergymen who taught unorthodox doctrines.

According to author Guitard, Saluzzo was a friend of Cedric Tornay, and he claimed that the young corporal had been murdered to cover the true motives behind Estermann’s assassination: Vatican authorities had discovered that he had been a Stasi double agent and decided to punish him.

So, here we have again the recurring claim that the Guard commander had been working for the Soviet Bloc. One may wonder: why would the Vatican exact such an extreme punishment on Estermann seven years after the end of the Cold War, and nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall?

I may be too naïve, but how about just firing him?

Let’s now go back to Vergés and Brossollet, the pair of French lawyers who had released that book in 2002, ‘Murdered in the Vatican’.

In January of 2005, on behalf of Cédric’s mother Muguette Baudat, they appealed to a Swiss Court, the Geneva Criminal Chamber, for them to reopen the case.

Vergés declared back then:

‘We have faced years of stubborn deafness from the Vatican. Cédric Tornay was Swiss, so it is proper to bring the case before a court in Switzerland’.

Before taking this decision, Muguette had sent several letters to Pope John Paul II demanding a new investigation. All of them went unanswered.

Unfortunately for her, the Swiss judiciary declined the appeal. The Geneva Criminal Chamber referred to the principle of territoriality. In other words, an offense should be prosecuted where the crime was committed.

Now, you may remember that Muguette’s appeal case was built on an independent autopsy, carried out by a Swiss expert, Dr Krompecher.

In 2005, a journalist from Swiss paper ‘Tages-Anzeiger’

[Taghes Ant Sie gher]

Had the chance to review this report. While he found that Krompecher did not entirely agree with the Vatican autopsy, he pointed out that

‘there is no indication in Krompecher’s expert report that Tornay didn’t die by his own hand — no indication, therefore, of any outside force’

Muguette and her team of lawyers were not discouraged by these setbacks. They prepared a further appeal and in 2009 they escalated the matter to the Federal Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, also this tribunal rejected the case, referring again to the principle of territoriality.

THE GLADIATOR’S TALE

Back on the 2nd of April 2005 Pope John Paul II died, and was succeeded by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who adopted the name of Benedict XVI.

A new Pope, a new hope, one might think.

And in fact, Muguette resumed her letter-writing campaign, imploring the new pontiff to reopen the case.

In November of 2011, her latest request attracted the attention of Swiss and Italian media, who had been quietly ignoring the case for some time.

This is what may have prompted a former Italian secret agent to step forward and relate his version of the events to a Sardinian local newspaper.

The agent in question was Antonino Arconte, codename ‘G.71’, a former member of the military secret service and of ‘Gladio’.

Members of ‘Gladio’, colloquially known as ‘Gladiators’, were part of NATO-coordinated sleeper cells, whose role was to launch an insurrection against the Red Army, in case of a Soviet invasion.

This is my personal opinion, but it’s kind of an Italian pastime to involve Gladio whenever the official explanation of an event appears unsatisfactory to the general public.

Just like History Channel seems to explain everything in ancient history with the cry of

‘Aliens!’

We tend to explain any aspect of Italy’s murky past with a shout of

‘Gladio!’

But at least in this case, it was a former Gladio member who willingly decided to get involved.

By end of 1997 Arconte had long since retired from his duties, and maintained a website dedicated to his experiences as a ‘Gladiator’.

He also wrote about alternative theories on past events of Italian history. Among others: the attempted assassination on John Paul II. Arconte did not believe the official version, i.e. that perpetrator Ali Agca had shot on behalf of the Turkish far-right group ‘The Grey Wolves’.

That’s when he received an email in German, signed by one ‘Werder’, who claimed to be a Vatican insider.

The sender mentioned that he could provide some new information about the assassination. But he also stated that he was at risk of ‘being made to disappear’, as he knew too many dangerous things about too many dangerous people.

Arconte and ‘Werder’ agreed to meet in secret in March of 1998, in a coastal town not far from Rome. During the encounter, Werder told his truth about the attempt on John Paul’s life.

Agca and the Grey Wolves had been manipulated by the Bulgarian secret services, who had been in turn controlled by the KGB. So, the assassination was a Soviet plot to eliminate a Pope that was too vocal against communism.

Arconte asked Werder how he knew about this plot, but he did not reveal it. He only reiterated that he was in danger, and added that he was expecting a promotion at work as a means to keep him quiet.

But clearly, he did not trust his superiors, as he was looking to escape the Vatican and relocate to the US.

The Gladiator and the Vatican insider parted ways. A few weeks later, Arconte learned about the assassination of Alois Estermann and drew his conclusions:

Alois was the infamous ‘Werder’ double agent, and he had been eliminated due to his knowledge of the truth behind John Paul’s shooting.

Now, former spy Arconte is not the only one who claims that the Soviets wanted the Pope dead. Is it plausible?

Again, I may be too naïve for this world, and probably wouldn’t resist two hours in a world of spies and secrets.

But here is how I see it.

Country ‘A’ schemes to assassinate the head of State of country ‘B’.

They fail.

17 years later, an employee of country ‘B’, threatens to expose country ‘A’ – which in the meanwhile has crumbled, fragmented, dissolved.

Ergo, someone in country ‘B’ decides to eliminate that employee.

Why would they? And even if they did not ‘heart’ this person, how about they fire him and pay those miserly wages to someone else?!?

Thankfully, the onslaught of speculation, conspiracy theories and books capitalising on the Vatican murders died down in the 2010s.

But Tornay’s mother has not yet abandoned her quest to find out more about his son’s death. In December of 2019, her new lawyer, Laura Sgro, issued a formal request to the Vatican judiciary to release their 1999 confidential court files.

This was a needed first step to evaluate how the Vatican had reached its conclusions, before filing a request to reopen the enquiry.

Sgro’s plea was ignored for 16 months (!)

Which takes us to May 2021. This is when Mrs Sgro turned directly to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, asking for his intervention to unlock proceedings.

The Secretary apparently took this request very seriously and asked the Vatican tribunal’s president to pay ‘particular attention’ to the plea sent by Mrs Baudat and her lawyer.

Since then, and at the time of writing this episode, the court files have not been released yet.

CONCLUSION

The case of the Swiss Guard murders has been officially closed since 1999, but the story is far from over.

With its elements of alleged intrigue and violence within the Vatican walls, it was bound to attract and inspire a flurry of conflicting stories.

We heard about

the love triangle,

the gay love triangle,

the internal power struggle between Opus Dei and Freemasons.

Without forgetting the spy stories, according to which Cédric, Gladys and Alois were murdered because

he was a covert supporter of the Soviet bloc,

or someone who traded weapons to the enemies of the Soviet bloc,

or someone who wanted to denounce the Soviet bloc.

Without going as far as creating a new theory of my own, I should point out that the official version of the events is itself rather flimsy. It was based on rather rushed conclusions, which were reached with circumstantial evidence, no witnesses and no confessions.

And there is that detail of the 7mm bullet wounds found on Tornay’s body, a detail that will be taken officially into account only if the case is re-opened.

All we can do is consider the official version to be the only credible one – at least until a new verdict is reached.

Whatever the outcome of a possible re-trial, I sincerely hope it can at least provide some peace of mind to the mother of a slain young soldier, who has been asking for the truth – or at least a re-examination of the truth – for the past 24 years.

DISMEMBERED APPENDICES

One.

Amongst the many possible theories and explanations that I have come across, there was one which didn’t make it to the ‘final cut’. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it was simply a suggestion. It came from an article in the British online news outlet The Church Times. The suggestion was: what if Alois’s wife Gladys was the real target of an assassination and subsequent cover-up?

Gladys was a former police officer and a current Embassy official. As a lawyer expert in Canonical law, she had supported the cause for the beatification of a Venezuelan nun. Other sources stated that she, alongside Alois had been involved in financial deals for the Opus Dei. Could anyone of these experiences have brought her in a collision course with a dangerous faction?

I realise I am slipping into conspiracy mode, so I will move swiftly to appendix number

Two.

Not really related to today’s case, but I mentioned in passing the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I in 1979. This Pope had been elected merely 33 days prior, and there are suspicions that he may have been poisoned. Perhaps, due to his desire to start investigations on the shady deals of the Vatican Bank, back then headed by Cardinal Marcinkus.

Movie buffs who love to hate the Godfather Part III may be familiar with a fictionalised version of these events, crowbarred into the plot of the film. In it, the equivalent of Pope John Paul I is friends with the Corleone family. He is poisoned by a banker Cardinal, who is then bumped off by a Mafia henchman infiltrated inside the Vatican.

Reality may have not been as dramatic, but perhaps our listeners and viewers may want to hear more about John Paul I in a future episode …

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