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Mystery of teen who vanished in Rome in 1980s, Emanuela Orlandi, takes another twist

Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

(ROME) — Another twist was added to the already perplexing mystery and 36-year search for Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old Italian girl who went missing in 1983 without a trace in the center of busy Rome.

The Vatican announced Saturday that following research and further investigation, two containers were found under a stone slab at the Teutonic Cemetery that could contain the missing bones of two 19th -century German princesses.

Last week, acting on a tip in the Orlandi case, Vatican officials opened two tombs belonging to two the noblewomen, but found no remains, either of the noblewomen or missing girl.

When the tombs turned up empty the Vatican recalled that there had been structural work done on the cemetery as recently as the 1960’s and 70’s, and suggested that perhaps the bones had been moved during this work.

The Vatican said the area and containers have been sealed until this coming weekend, when forensic experts, representatives of the Orlandi family, descendants of the German princesses and Vatican officials will gather to open them. Experts should be able to roughly date the bones in the first few hours but more extensive forensic tests could take up to 60 days.

The Orlandi family lawyer, Laura Sgro, told ABC News today that she and the family had been invited to the unsealing appointment Saturday. She said she thought it was “necessary that this be done as the remains of the two princesses has to be confirmed.”

The Vatican has always denied its involvement in or knowledge of what happened to Emanuela, whose father was a Vatican employee. Vatican officials insist they do not have information to solve the mystery and maintain they have always been close to the family and always been supportive of them.

Theories have circulated in Italy for decades as to what may have happened to Emanuela and if she died, where her body may lie. Multiple false leads, anonymous letters, conspiracy theories and supposed sightings of Emanuela in distant countries have been pursued; none leading to anything concrete so far.

This is also not the first time tombs or possible burial sites have been exhumed in search of Emanuela’s remains. Last November, Roman prosecutors announced that bones found in annex to the Vatican’s Embassy to Italy were not Emanuela’s.

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