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Vatican search fails to find remains of teenager who disappeared in 1983

Emanuela Orlandi was the daughter of a Vatican City employee. She disappeared on 22 June 1983.

A poster of missing girl Emanuela Orlandi
A poster of missing girl Emanuela Orlandi
Image: Matteo Nardone via PA Images

EXPERTS HAVE FOUND no recent bones in their examination of an ossuary as part of a search for a teenager who disappeared 36 years ago, according to Vatican officials.

A team of specialists, who completed their work today, had found no bones old enough to match those of Emanuela Orlandi, the missing teenager.

Orlandi was the daughter of a Vatican City employee. She disappeared on 22 June 1983, aged 15, after leaving a music class.

Forensics specialist Giovanni Arcudi, who led the team, said they had found “no bone structure dating back to a period later than the end of the 19th century”. 

However, an expert appointed to represent the Orlandi family’s interest has called for more detailed tests to take place on around 70 bones that Professor Arcudi did not think worth examining because he judged them to be very old.

The Vatican police have filed and taken possession of the remains, pending a court ruling on the question.

The experts removed thousands of bone fragments from the basement of the Pontifical Teutonic College on 20 July, searching for her remains. 

This followed a mysterious message sent to her family via their lawyer – a picture of an angel-topped grave in the Teutonic cemetery, and a message which simply read “Look where the angel is pointing”.

No bones were found there, not even those of two 19th-century princesses who were meant to be buried there. However, a further search found the bones underneath the College.

The bones were likely moved during work on the cemetery and college during the 1970s and 1980s, the vatican said.

Rival theories

There are a number of conflicting theories that have been widely circulated in Italian media regarding what happened to Orlandi. 

Some theories say Orlandi was snatched by mobsters to put pressure on the Vatican to recover a loan.

Another claim often repeated in the press was that she was taken to force the release from prison of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.

In 2017, conspiracy specialists were driven into a frenzy by a leaked – but apparently falsified – document, purportedly written by a cardinal and pointing to a Vatican cover-up.

Five years earlier, experts exhuming the tomb of a notorious crime boss at a Vatican-owned church uncovered some 400 boxes of bones.

Head of the Magliana gang, Enrico De Pedis, was suspected of involvement in her kidnapping.

Some speculated Orlandi might be buried alongside him – but DNA tests failed to find a match.

Includes reporting by © – AFP 2019

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