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Vatican Opens 2 Tombs in Hunt for Long-Missing Teen

Remains of Emanuela Orlandi aren't there, and neither are those of original bodies
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2019 10:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Emanuela Orlandi is still missing—and now two long-dead princesses are, too. Emanuela was an Italian teenager who disappeared more than 30 years ago, and the Vatican on Thursday opened two 19th-century tombs after the family got a tip she might be buried in one of them. They found nothing, however, reports Reuters. As in, they didn't find the remains of Emanuela, but nor did they find the remains of either princess. Details and background of the unusual case:

  • Disappearance: Emanuela, 15, lived in Vatican City because her father was an employee there. On June 22, 1983, she went into central Rome for a flute lesson and was last seen at a bus stop after the lesson ended, reports CBS News. Her disappearance was big news in Rome at the time, and it has remained a perplexing cold case ever since.
  • Cryptic letter: Last summer, the family received a letter saying, "If you want to find Emanuela, search where the angel looks," reports NBC News. It included a photo of an angel in Vatican City's tiny Teutonic Cemetery. The Vatican agreed to open two tombs near the angel, that of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Princess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg, who died in 1840.

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  • Zilch: "They found nothing, not even the remains of those who were meant to officially be buried there," says Emanuela's brother, Pietro. "I am relieved by it." Family lawyer Laura Sgro notes that Emanuela's mother still lives in Vatican City, near the cemetery, and it would have been crushing to know Emanuela had been so close all this time.
  • New mystery: So where are the princesses? The Vatican has no idea but is investigating, reports CBS News. One theory is that their remains were removed in long-ago renovations. Attorney Sgro, however, wonders if something happened more recently, based on what family members saw after initially getting the letter. "The tomb had obviously been recently opened, there was new cement on it, but we didn't know why or when, we were given no information," she tells CBS.
  • Theories: Over the years, Emanuela's disappearance has been linked to some wild conspiracy theories, notes the New York Times. Those involve the KGB, the Sicilian Mafia, a Vatican bank scandal—because her father was a bank employee—and even a plot to win the freedom of a Turkish man jailed for trying to assassinate John Paul II. But police can't even confirm that she was kidnapped or killed.
  • Wrenching memory: Brother Pietro recalls the day she died. "We had a fight, because she had a music lesson," he says, per the BBC. "It was really hot, and I refused to go with her because I had something else going on. So she slammed the door and left, and that's the memory I have." He adds: "I've often thought, what if I had actually gone with her?"
(Incredibly, this isn't the first time a tomb has been searched to find Emanuela. In 2012, authorities opened the grave of a notorious Italian mobster.)

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