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

The tombs of two princesses in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery have been opened and found to be empty

The Orlandi family later received an anonymous letter saying Emanuela's body might be hidden among the dead in the Teutonic cemetery where a statue of an angel holding a book reads "requiescat in pace", Latin for "rest in peace".

"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.

"They found nothing, not even the remains of those who were meant to officially be buried there", said Emanuela Orlandi's brother, Pietro Orlandi.

Following the opening, the Vatican said in a statement that it "wants to reiterate that it has always expressed attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family, especially Emanuela's mother".

Pietro Orlandi said that in a certain sense that no bones were found was "personally a relief", since it would have been upsetting to view remains that might have been those of his sister.

Another claim often repeated in the press 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.

"We're frankly astonished", said Laura Sgro, the Orlandi family lawyer. So far there has been no solid evidence in the case at all. Subsequently, the second tomb, that of Princess Charlotte Federica of Mecklemburg was opened.

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Tombs in a cemetery on the Vatican's grounds are seen before being opened to look for any remains linked to the 36-year-old disappearance of a teenage daughter of a clerk in the Holy See, in the Vatican, July 11, 2019. "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".

"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", Sgro told CBS News.

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

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. "Until I find Emanuela, it is my duty to seek out the truth", he said.

The family braced for a possible breakthrough past year when human remains were found at a Vatican property in Rome.

Both graves were opened due to their proximity to one another and to "avoid possible misunderstandings about which grave is the indicated grave", a Vatican tribunal said. Enrico De Pedis, head of the Magliana gang, was suspected of involvement in her kidnapping and some speculated the youngster may be buried alongside him - but DNA tests failed to find a match. There were renovations carried out in the cemetery at the end of the 1800's, and then again in the 1960s and 1970s.

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