Just over a week after Vatican investigators reopened tombs while searching for missing teen Emanuela Orlandi, “thousands of bones” were discovered in two ossuaries nearby.
Emanuela was only 15 years old when she went missing from Rome during the summer of 1983. She was last seen leaving a flute lesson at the Sant’Apollinare basilica.
The mystery surrounding Emanuela’s disappearance has haunted Italians for 36 years, resulting in many conspiracy theories, but new hope sparked last summer after the family received an anonymous tip.
A note that was sent to the family’s lawyer, Laura Sgro, pointed them to “seek where the angel indicates.”
That mysterious note led the family to the Teutonic Cemetery where an angel statue points to two tombs of 19th-century German princesses; the angel also holds a piece of paper that says “Rest in Peace” in Latin.
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti announced on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, that the Holy See decided to honor the family’s request and said that the tombs would be opened on July 11th.
But when investigators opened the tombs, they were empty; not even the remains of the princesses were found inside.
Upon further research, investigators learned that the cemetery had gone through renovations in the 1960s and 1970s, which explained why the tombs were empty and pointed them to two ossuaries underneath the nearby college.
The family’s forensic expert, Giorgio Portera, told ABC News that thousands of unsorted bones were found in the containers.
— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) July 20, 2019
“I can’t say if it’s 1,000 or 2,000, but there are really very many, and so we assume the presence of the remains of a few dozen people,” Portera said. “There are long bones, small bones, many are fragmented.”
Emanuela’s brother, Pietro Orlandi, told CNN, “There are hundreds, thousands of bones and now the Vatican is classifying them by age and will investigate the more recent ones.”
Tests on the bones are expected to begin next week, but it has not yet been determined how long those tests will take.
The discovery of these bones is just the latest development in a long, drawn-out search for Emanuela Orlandi, which explains why her sister, Frederica, is hesitant to be hopeful.
She told ABC, “Obviously it’s an emotional experience because I think my sister’s bones could be there, but I won’t think about it until we have the results.”
Update: The Vatican shared on July 29, 2019, that the bones found at the Teutonic Cemetery were too old to be those of Emanuela Orlandi. “None of the remains could be dated later than the end of the 19th century,” the statement said.
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