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New Head of Vatican Guards Killed

May 5, 1998

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ A member of the pope’s Swiss Guards who killed his commander, the official’s wife and himself was disgruntled over lack of recognition in the elite corps, the papal spokesman said today.

The 23-year-old non-commissioned officer felt he was ``not valued in the corps″ and was angry that he was not going to be decorated during a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, said the spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

``He complained to his colleagues that he was not included in the list,″ Navarro-Valls told reporters. The guardsman also was outraged over a recent letter of reprimand from the commander, Col. Alois Estermann, for staying out all night.

``It was a fit of madness in a person with very peculiar psychological characteristics,″ Navarro-Valls said.

The slain 43-year-old commander had accompanied John Paul on more than 30 foreign trips and reportedly tried to shield the pontiff during a 1981 assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope John Paul II was told of the killings, but had no immediate public comment.

The killings came on the day Estermann had reached the pinnacle of his career: hours earlier, John Paul appointed him commander of the 100-member corps founded in 1506.

A neighbor found the bodies of Estermann, his Venezuelan-born wife, Gladys Meza Romero, who was in her late 40s, and Cedrich Tornay, the non-commissioned officer, around 9 p.m. after hearing loud noises.

Ms. Meza Romero worked at the Venezuelan Embassy to the Holy See. The couple had no children.

All three were lying in the entrance hall of the Estermanns’ Vatican City apartment, just inside the St. Anne gate, the ANSA news agency said. The papal apartments are a few hundred yards away.

Investigators found Tornay’s pistol underneath his body. All three were dressed.

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