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At Vatican, empty tombs add new twist to missing girl mystery

13 July 2019

The Vatican said in a statement that not only were Emanuela Orlandi's remains missing, but the tombs also did not even hold the remains of the two princesses supposed to be buried there in the Teutonic Cemetery in 1836 and 1840 in the tiny city-state.

In March, there was a glimmer of hope, when Orlandi's family received a weird tip from unnamed people that the girl's remains could be in a Vatican cemetery "where an angel was pointing".

The brother of long-missing Emanuela Orlandi, Pietro, attended the exhumation of two Vatican graves on Thursday as local officials searched for any trace of his sister.

Anonymous letter suggests Emanuela Orlandi could be buried at Vatican City cemetery; Amy Kellogg reports from Milan, Italy.

Theories about Orlandi's disappearance have run the gamut from an attempt to secure freedom for Mehmet Ali Agca, 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.

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"Careful inspection of the tomb of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe has unearthed a large underground compartment of about 4 meters by 3.7, completely empty", he said. "In that moment I told myself, "he knows something, more than us", he said.

There was nothing found in the two graves opened in the Teutonic Cemetery on Thursday, according to the Vatican.

"Much depends on the environmental conditions, on the microclimate in which they are found, on the humidity, on the presence of infiltrations, on possible actions of microfauna", he said.

"We want to reemphasize that the Holy See always has shown attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family, particularly her mother", Gisotti said.

"The last thing I expected was to find empty tombs", said her brother Pietro Orlandi, 60, who has never stopped hoping to find his sister alive.

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Sgro said the family went to the Teutonic Cemetery and quickly found the "Tomb of the Angel", and they noticed something that seemed to be amiss. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

The opening of the graves was performed by the Vatican construction staff and overseen by a forensic anthropologist and his team, the Vatican gendarmerie, and by the Vatican tribunal's promoter of justice. No remains or urns were found in the tombs of the two princesses.

And past year, a bag of bones was found during ground work at the Vatican embassy in Rome, but DNA tests turned out negative.

Bones found near the Vatican's embassy to Italy late previous year revived interest in Orlandi's disappearance, but analysis of the remains showed they did not belong to Orlandi.

The Vatican's next step following the discovery, Gisotti explained, will be to look into documentation about structural renovations that took place in the cemetery at the end of the 1800s and in the 1960s and '70s.

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At Vatican, empty tombs add new twist to missing girl mystery