Vatican tombs opened in search for missing teen empty of original remains

By Danielle Haynes
The Teutonic Cemetery is the only graveyard in the Vatican. File Photo by Johannes Muller/Wikimedia Commons
The Teutonic Cemetery is the only graveyard in the Vatican. File Photo by Johannes Muller/Wikimedia Commons

July 11 (UPI) -- Workers who opened two 19th century tombs in a Vatican graveyard to search for the remains of a 15-year-old girl who went missing 36 years ago were greeted by another mystery Thursday -- the disappearance of the remains that should have been in the graves.

The Vatican sanctioned the opening of the two tombs at the Teutonic Cemetery, the only graveyard in the small city, in the search for Emanuela Orlandi.


She disappeared June 22, 1983, on her way to a music lesson. Her family later received communications from someone who said they were holding the 15-year-old hostage in exchange for the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, who was serving a life sentence in prison for shooting Pope John Paul II in 1981.

The family has received a number of clues over the 36 years since Orlandi's disappearance, including one involving bone and teeth fragments found during a construction project. The latest tip led them to the cemetery.

"Last summer, I received an envelope," family lawyer Laura Sgro told NBC News. "I opened it and there was a picture of the state of an angel in the Teutonic Cemetery inside the Vatican. And a letter that simply said, 'If you want to find Emanuela, search where the angel looks.'"


The Vatican approved the opening of two tombs, which are located next to each other near the statue in question. They belong to Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklemburg, who died in 1840.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said that not only were Orlandi's remains not in either of the tombs, neither were either of the princesses.'

"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. "Subsequently, the opening of the second tomb-sarcophagus took place, that of Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklemburg. Inside it, no human remains were found. The family members of the two princesses were informed of the results of the research."

Sgro said the Orlandi family were "all amazed."

Vatican officials said they plan to research records to investigate why neither of the princesses' remains were in their tombs.

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