Emanuela Orlandi mystery: Vatican opens graves

The brother of long-missing Emanuela Orlandi, Pietro, is attending the exhumation of two Vatican graves on Thursday as local officials search for any trace of his sister.

Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, was last seen leaving a music class in 1983. She was 15 years old. Her disappearance fueled numerous conspiracy theories, with accusers pointing the finger at Italian mafia, sexual predators within the clergy, and foreign intelligence agencies.

Her older brother Pietro kept up public pressure on Vatican officials over the case throughout the years. The family lawyer, Laura Sgro, reported receiving an anonymous tip earlier this year. The letter contained a photo of an angel on a Vatican cemetery, and a message that read "Look where the angel is pointing."

The site turned out to be Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery, a small graveyard beyond St. Peter's Basilica which serves as a resting place for German and Flemish-speaking Vatican residents. The cemetery is off limits to tourists.

First results within hours

Based on the photo, Vatican officials decided to open the graves of two princesses, one of whom was buried there in 1836 and another in 1840.

Forensic expert Giovanni Arcudi is also set to attend the exhumation. In an interview published by the Vatican on Wednesday, he said he would be able to draw first conclusions within "three, four, five hours."

"We can distinguish between a 10-year-old bone or a bone that has been there for 50 or 150 years. We can already diagnose the gender, if the bone structures are all well-preserved," Arcudi said.

The preliminary examination might be enough to rule out the presence of another person's remains in the graves, he explained. A full analysis, including DNA testing, was expected to take between 20 and 60 days.

'I've always hoped she's alive'

Pietro Orlandi, who is now 60 years old, told the AFP news agency that some people in Vatican might have been involved into his sister's disappearance.

Read more: Police probe bones unearthed at Vatican's Rome embassy

"I've always hoped she's alive, and to find her alive," he said. "But if Emanuela is dead and is buried there, it's right that what has been hidden for so many years comes to light."

dj/rc (AFP, dpa)

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