Vatican begins investigation into teenager who went missing 40 years ago

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The Vatican confirmed it had opened an investigation into its most famous cold case. (representative)

Vatican CITY:

The Vatican on Tuesday confirmed it had opened an investigation into its most famous cold case, the disappearance of a teenager 40 years ago, which sparked numerous theories and a popular Netflix series.

Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee, was last seen leaving a music class in Rome on June 22, 1983.

Decades of speculation followed about what happened to her, with theories blaming everyone from mobsters, the secret services to the Freemasons and a Vatican conspiracy – none ever proven.

The Orlandi family has campaigned tirelessly for the truth, and it was their demands that led, in part, to the new investigation.

The Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Alessandro Diddi, “has opened a file, also based on requests from the family,” a spokesman said on Tuesday.

However, the family said they are still awaiting details on what will be the focus of the new probe.

“We don’t know what the Vatican will do… what documents they want to review, the documents of the investigation by Rome’s prosecutors or if they have a file to share,” family lawyer Laura Sgro told AFP.

“The Vatican has never done anything so far,” she said, adding, “I’ve been asking for years to be heard by top figures in the Vatican… but unfortunately people are already dead.”

Digging up graves

One of the most widespread theories claimed that Orlandi was snatched by mobsters to pressure the Vatican to reclaim a loan.

Enrico De Pedis, head of the Magliana gang, was suspected of involvement in her kidnapping and some speculated that the youngster might be buried next to him under a church.

Italian authorities even went so far as to open his tomb in 2012 and uncover boxes of bones. But DNA tests failed to find a match for Orlandi.

In 2019, the Vatican agreed to open two graves in the small city-state at the request of the family, following an anonymous tip.

The graves in the German cemetery turned out to be empty, even of the two princesses who should have been buried there.

The princesses’ bones were later found under the German College nearby, but the Vatican said there was no trace of recent remains.

Vatican girl

The twists and turns of the case were documented in a 2022 Netflix TV series, “Vatican Girl”.

In it, Pietro, Orlandi’s brother, claims Pope Francis told him the teen was “up in the air” — a claim the family says shows the Vatican knows what happened to her.

The documentary heard witness statements confirming the theory that Orlandi had been kidnapped.

In it, a friend also claimed that the teen had been confided in the Vatican gardens in the week before she disappeared by a figure close to the then Pope John Paul II.

In 2017, conspiracy specialists were already infuriated by a leaked – but apparently forged – document purportedly written by a cardinal and pointing to a cover-up by the Vatican.

Another claim often repeated in the Italian media 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 a post on Facebook, Pietro Orlandi welcomed the new investigation if it was really done with the aim of bringing clarity and “finally providing justice for Emanuela”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)

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