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Alois Estermann (October 29, 1954 – May 4, 1998) was a senior officer of the Pontifical Swiss Guard who was murdered in his apartment in Vatican City.
From 1975-76 Estermann attended the officer training school for the Swiss Army at Thun. He subsequently reached the rank of lieutenant as a Swiss reserve officer. In 1977 Estermann served briefly in the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican. He then lived in Argentina for two years. In July 1980 he rejoined the Swiss Guard, as an officer. In 1983 he was promoted to major and in 1987 to lieutenant-colonel. In 1988 he was appointed as Commander of the Swiss Guard.
According to official Vatican statements, Estermann and his Venezuelan wife, Gladys Meza Romero, were killed on 4 May 1998 by a young Swiss Guard Vice-Corporal Cédric Tornay, who then committed suicide. Estermann, formerly acting commander of the Swiss Guard, had been confirmed in his position the same day. Tornay had earlier been reprimanded for breaches of discipline and had been passed over for a medal routinely awarded to Guards after three years of service. A note written by Tornay shortly before the murder indicates that he regarded Estermann as a harsh martinet with a personal bias against the Vice-Corporal.
According to a piece edited by Fabio Croce, the three were all murdered by a Vatican killer, due to Estermann's deep knowledge of the small state's trafficks. According to the book Poteri forti by Ferruccio Pinotti, Estermann in 1981 repeatedly travelled to Poland to coordinate the arrival of military equipment from Scandinavia to support the Polish anti-communist organization Solidarity.
The text Bugie di sangue in Vaticano (1999), written by "a group of Vatican ecclesiastics and lays who cannot continue to avail, with their silence, official truth told by the Vatican", supports the hypothesis that Estermann was the Pope's personal guard, and that he was killed in the course of a supposed struggle between the Opus Dei and masonic parties within the Vatican hierarchy, both attempting to annex the Swiss guard.
The British journalist, John Follain, undertook extensive interviews to inform his book, City of Secrets: The Truth behind the murders at the Vatican (2006). Follain dismisses speculation that Estermann, his wife, and Tornay were murdered by an external fourth party or that Estermann was a spy for the former East German government. Follain's research indicated that Cédric Tornay did indeed kill his commander, and his commander's wife before turning the gun on himself. Reportedly Tornay found the running of the Swiss Guard archaic, and resented the dominance of the Swiss German majority contingent. According to Follain, Tornay turned to Alois Estermann for affection, and had a short homosexual affair. Their relationship deteriorated into acrimony as Tornay realised that Estermann had betrayed him with another guard. Estermann's close links to the Opus Dei movement, and his final refusal to award the Benemerenti medal for three years' service led to further frustration and Tornay's ultimate decision to kill Estermann.
In a recently published history of the modern Vatican's military and police forces Professor David Alvarez, of the Department of Politics at St. Mary's College of California, summarizes the various conspiracy theories, before concluding that they "either remain unsubstantiated or have been thoroughly discredited".