Rome– The mother of a Swiss Guard member accused of one of the most sensational crimes in recent Vatican history – gunning down his commanding officer and the wife of a senior officer before committing suicide – is turning to the UN and Pope Francis in hopes of some closure Nearly a quarter of a century after the killings.
Muguette Baudat was present Tuesday, and her attorney, Laura Sgro, a senior defense attorney for the Vatican’s criminal trials, detailed her efforts to steal information from the Vatican and review court files to learn about the May 4, 1998 The killings recounted in Sgro’s new case book, “Blood in the Vatican.”
“I’ve waited more than 24 years, so I wasn’t expecting anything,” Boudat said at the book launch. But she added: “This book is very important.”
Within hours of the killing, a Vatican spokesman announced that Boudat’s 23-year-old son, Cedric Tornay, a non-commissioned officer in the Swiss Guards, pointed his revolver and then pointed the gun at own. The spokesperson said dissatisfaction with Esterman’s reprimand and refusal to award the medal, combined with “special” psychology, led to Toney’s violence.
Nine months later, in February 1999, the Vatican released a 10-page summary of its internal investigation confirming its initial assessment. It concluded that Tornay was solely responsible for the murder-suicide, but added that his marijuana use and a brain cyst the size of a pigeon egg may have impaired his reasoning skills.
Baudat spent 20 years fighting for more information and hired Sgro in 2019 to demand that the Vatican investigation be reopened. She said her request was not based on a belief that the Vatican was responsible, but rather to end the secrecy with which it had handled the case.
Last year, the Vatican secretary of state personally intervened in the case and asked the Vatican court to “pay particular attention” to Bowda’s request. Sgro was granted access to court documents.
In the book, Sgro details what she found in the documents, and the conditions Vatican prosecutors imposed on her to see them: she was not allowed to make copies, but could only view them in court, accompanied by two military police stations. Behind her, watching her all the time. She was allowed to take some notes, but not much, as she was expressly prohibited from copying the text. After each viewing over the course of a year, she had to submit her notes to the prosecutor’s office.
She said on Tuesday that what she found while reading court documents “confirmed all of the mother’s suspicions about an investigation conducted in an absolutely superficial manner.”
At least 20 people, including priests, bishops and a spokesman for the Vatican, were allowed to enter the crime scene in the moments after the killing, Sgro said, but none of them were wearing protective gear. No fingerprints or blood samples were taken, and no DNA testing was done.
A handwriting analysis of a letter purportedly written by Tornay to his mother and foreshadowing the killing was performed on a photocopy, not the original document. Bodies and furniture were moved around Estman’s apartment, according to 38 photos taken by a Vatican newspaper photographer in court files. The autopsy was not performed in the hospital morgue, but in the basement of a chapel inside the Vatican walls.
“An hour later, Cedric was found guilty and the investigation revolved around that, which was absolutely the most shocking thing,” Sgro said.
The lawyers claim the conditions under which she was forced to work to access the files, and the mother’s long struggle to find information about her son, constitute human rights violations that should be addressed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
There was no indication on Tuesday whether the U.N. would take up her case, since such complaints must demonstrate a consistent pattern of “gross violations” of human rights, such as South Africa’s apartheid policy.
Sgro said she had no choice because the Holy See is not a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and is therefore not a party to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where it usually Such appeals will be heard. The Holy See enjoys observer status at the United Nations and has been criticized by UN human rights experts over a scandal involving sexual abuse by clergy.
Sgro said she sent a copy of “Blood in the Vatican” to Pope Francis, who responded with a personal letter. His response, she said, gave her hope that the Vatican might be ready to admit its initial investigation was flawed and that even if Thone was identified as the killer, his legacy might somehow be restored.
“It’s a small drop after 24 years of silence,” Sgro said. “Let’s hope that this drop turns into a glass of water, and then into a lake.”