Missing teen mystery deepens as Vatican dig reveals empty graves

Clay Curtis
July 13, 2019

Workers who opened two 19th century tombs in a Vatican graveyard to search for the remains of a 15-year-old girl who went missing 36 years ago were greeted by another mystery Thursday - the disappearance of the remains that should have been in the graves.

In a statement released after just a couple hours of work, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said the operation had "produced negative results: no human findings or funerary urns were found" in either of the tombs - neither any remains appearing to belong to a teenager from the 1980s, nor any belonging to the 19th century princesses.

Pietro Orlandi, brother of Emanuela Orlandi, leaves the Vatican with his lawyer Laura Sgro, after two tombs were opened in a cemetery on its grounds to test the DNA of bones to help solve one of Italy's most enduring mysteries in the Vatican, July 11, 2019.

Princess Sophie's tomb led to a mysterious empty underground room and no human remains were found in Princess Carlotta's tomb, officials said.

Members of their families, Orlandi's, and forensics scientists and Vatican police were all present as the tombs were unsealed. Emanuela's father was a Vatican employee, and speculation regarding her disappearance and hypothetical ties with the Vatican have been rife for 36 years.

Gisotti said that under a marble slab that was believed to be Princess Sophie's tomb there was a large subterranean opening, measuring four meters by 3.7 meters (13 feet by 12 feet), "completely empty".

"There was new cement on it, but we didn't know why or when, we were given no information", Sgro said.

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Theories about Emanuela's disappearance have run the gamut from an attempt to secure freedom for Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turk jailed in 1981 for trying to assassinate Pope John Paul II, to a connection to the grave of Enrico De Pedis, a mobster buried in a Rome basilica.

The Holy See expressed its "attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi Family and in particular to Emanuela's mother", who still lives inside the Vatican.

The Vatican said Thursday it would be opening both the "angel" tomb and a similar-looking one next to it "in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings about which tomb was indicated".

Pietro Orlandi said that in a certain sense that no bones were found was "personally a relief", since it would have been upsetting to view remains that might have been those of his sister. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

Both graves were opened due to their proximity to one another and to "avoid possible misunderstandings about which grave is the indicated grave", a Vatican tribunal said. It included a photo of an angel in Vatican City's tiny Teutonic Cemetery.

"I've always hoped she's alive, and to find her alive", he said before the graves were opened. There were renovations carried out in the cemetery at the end of the 1800's, and then again in the 1960s and 1970s.

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