The killings of two Swiss Guards and a woman in the Vatican on Monday were the most violent acts perpetrated in the world's smallest state since the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul in 1981.

Captain Commandant Alois Estermann, 43, appointed only hours before his death as head of the papal Swiss Guard, was found shot dead in his Vatican apartment with his Venezuelan wife, Gladys Meza Romero, at around 9 p.m. Vice-corporal Cedric Tornay, 23, was also found dead in the apartment with his body slumped over his pistol.Monday's killings were the first time blood had been shed through violence at the Vatican since the day the world was stunned by the assassination attempt on the newly elected Polish pontiff on May 13, 1981.