On June 22, 1983, 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, disappeared inside the Vatican compound. Emanuela, a citizen of Vatican City, had left her family’s apartment for a weekly music lesson. Her parents, employees of the Vatican, said she had called them earlier that day explaining that she had been late to her music lesson because she was held up by an Avon representative she had met on the way to school. Students at the music school say Emanuela talked about a job offer she had received from the rep. Emanuela was last seen getting into a large, dark-colored BMW with blacked-out windows.
When Emanuela did not return to the apartment that night, her parents reported her missing. Police insisted they wait another day because “perhaps the girl was with friends”. The next day she was officially declared a “missing person”.
Shortly after her disappearance, a youth came forward and claimed he saw Emanuela at Piazza Navona. He said she had a flute and wore glasses (which Emanuela loathed to wear) and told him her name was Barbarella. Three days later, a man called claiming a girl named “Barbara” had confided in him that she had run away from home. By July 3, Pope John Paul II was pleading with those responsible, asking that they return her to her home in the Vatican.
Days after the Pope’s announcement, a series of bizarre accusations reached authorities. One claimed Emanuela was being held by a terrorist group, the same group that shot the Pope on May 13, 1981. Another caller with an “American voice” played Emanuela’s voice over the phone in a series of sixteen phone calls. Yet another call claimed she was being held by the Italian Mafia. But the most bizarre accusation came many years later.
In May 2013, 85-year-old exorcist Gabriele Amorth told authorities that Emanuela had been kidnapped by a member of the Vatican police and for some time, was used for “sex parties”. Amorth claimed that an unnamed foreign embassy was involved as well. He said she had been murdered after her captors lost interest in her. He claimed her abduction was part of a wider conspiracy.
“This was a crime with a sexual motive. Parties were organized, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls.”
With the new evidence and a related tip, police searched the De Pedis tomb but found no trace of Emanuela.
Six years after Amorth’s stunning revelation, the family received an anonymous tip that Emanuela’s remains could be found in an area of the Pontifical Teutonic Cemetery. The note said her body could be found in a tomb “that an angel holding a sheet saying: “Rest in peace” points to from its location on the cemetery wall”. This hinted at two specific graves located inside the Vatican’s Teutonic Cemetery.
The Vatican gave the green light and the two graves were exhumed. The graves were supposed to contain two 19th-century German princesses (Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklenburg, who died in 1840) but after two hours of work, officials found the graves completely empty.
The search continued in an area adjacent to the princesses’’ tombs. There investigators identified multiple sets of bones under the pavement of an area covered by a manhole. The area has been sealed off and forensic experts have been called in for further investigation.