Manslaughter, theft and fraud are on the rise in Rome, and the number of children reported breaking the law is growing. Figures for the year ended 30 June 2002 show almost 400,000 reported crimes in the Lazio region; that works out at a rate of around 45 an hour, and represents a ten per cent increase on the previous year. The total number of manslaughters rose 33 per cent to 1,269, while recorded thefts increased by 25.6 per cent to 216,630 and fraud jumped 46.7 per cent to 17,580 cases. Reported crimes involving minors rose nearly seven per cent to 5,057, and there were nine cases of children attempting murder compared with four incidents the previous year.

Meanwhile, a new book claims to reveal the truth behind the death of two Swiss guards at the Vatican in 1998. The Holy See was accused of secrecy after its investigation into the events found that 23-year-old Cedric Tornay had killed Colonel Alois Estermann and Estermanns wife and then killed himself in a fit of madness. In City of Secrets, journalist John Follain claims the killings were the result of friction stemming from Tornays two-year relationship with Estermann, and that the corps is wracked with tensions. Among his sources were a cardinal, an ex-priest and several former members of the Swiss Guard, he says. City of Secrets is published by William Morrow and is available from English-language bookshops.

The Vatican has declined to comment on the book, but in an attempt to increase the transparency of its judicial system, in January the annual crime report was read in public for the first time. The figures revealed that there were a total of 1,005 judicial proceedings during 2002. While the overwhelming majority related to thefts, a number of frauds, embezzlements and unpaid fines were also recorded. There are just 455 inhabitants in the tiny pontifical state, but nearly three million visitors flock to the Vatican Museums each year.