Monday, November 14, 2011

Sensationalism...But A Good Story

I had never heard this story about the Swiss Guard Murders in the Vatican in the 1990's. Who knows if the saltier theories are true or not, but they certainly make for the kind of racy gossip that the Vatican prefers to hush (and yet, I feel, by that very fact sometimes deserves) about what goes on within its walls:

On May 4, 1998, five shots rang out inside a private apartment tucked within the fortified walls of Vatican City in Rome. Dead were Alois Estermann, the newly appointed commander of the elite Swiss Guard army that protects the pope; Estermann’s Venezuelan wife, Gladys Meza Romero, a former model; and Cedric Tornay, who was a corporal in the Swiss Guard. No one heard the shots, according to neighbors who were interviewed after the murders, but the three bodies were enough proof to solve the crime, at least according to the Vatican. The Holy See’s official line was that corporal Tornay had killed Estermann and his wife before putting his 7mm pistol into his mouth and blowing his brains out. The motive was simple, they said. Tornay had been passed up by Estermann for a promotion and could not contain his rage.


In the years that followed, reporters followed several leads in a yet- unsolved quest for the truth about what may have really happened that night. Several books have been penned about the case, but none so far have truly solved the crime. It was no secret within the Swiss Guard that Estermann was a bisexual who had a weakness for young recruits and had allegedly just ended a sexual relationship with Tornay, who was 23 at the time. One theory is that when Estermann turned his affections to another young recruit, Tornay allegedly lost his temper and killed Estermann and his wife in a jealous rage. In a book written on the case called Verbum Dei et Verbum Gay ("God's Word, Gay Word"), author Massimo Lacchei writes that in the days before the murders, he had observed Estermann and Tornay at what he describes as a gay brunch and had later interviewed Tornay, who he said was clearly attached to his superior. He says, ''They were so intimate and friendly for a subordinate and a captain.”

Another theory is that Estermann was at the core of a power struggle within the Swiss Guard itself. On one side was the über-conservative Opus Dei movement, and on the other a Masonic sect with growing strength within the elite guard. Estermann, who was appointed as the guards’ new commander just hours before he was murdered, was caught in the middle, according to a book called Blood Lies in the Vatican, written by anonymous authors who claim to be priests and insiders who live inside the Vatican walls. They maintain that Tornay was attacked and dragged to the Vatican cellar, where he was “suicided” by commandos and then later placed in Estermann’s apartment after the real assailants did their dirty work. They conclude, “The element that undermines the official truth is the fact that no one heard the five loud shots fired by the powerful pistol found under Cedric Tornay’s body.”

It's like a real life Da Vinci Code (with just as much credibility maybe, but still fun! By which, I mean, the salacious "mystery" aspect, not the fact that people died...)

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