Empty tombs dash hopes of finding missing Vatican girl’s remains

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The Vatican began digging up two graves on Thursday after an anonymous tip-off that they might contain the remains of an Italian teenager who went missing 36 years ago. "No human remains or funeral urns were found", Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.

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

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

The tombs, located on Vatican extra-territorial property adjacent to Vatican City State, were opened in an attempt to find a clue to the 1983 vanishing of Emanuela Orlandi.

Over the decades the unsolved Orlandi case has sparked conspiracy theories ranging from kidnap by a terrorist group demanding the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square in 1981, to the involvement of the Banda della Magliana, Rome's notorious criminal gang founded in the 1970s.

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

Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, was last seen leaving a music class in 1983. "We are all amazed", Orlandi family lawyer Laura Sgro told reporters. Because the family lived inside the Vatican walls, numerous rumors involve the Vatican itself: that she was murdered in connection to the Vatican bank scandals of the 1980s; that she was kidnapped to barter for the freedom of a man who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II; that she was kidnapped as part of a sex slavery ring inside the Vatican.

"We want to reemphasize that the Holy See always has shown attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family, particularly her mother", Gisotti said.

"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", he said. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

"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.

Surprisingly, the Vatican agreed to open two tombs at the Teutonic Cemetery, which dates to the 1800s.

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.

Professor Arcudi can not predict how long the procedure will take: "It depends, precisely, on the state, quality and quantity of the remains that we will find", he says.

Prior to this morning's work, Vatican officials had said that DNA tests were to be carried out on the bones found and the results would be known in a number of weeks.

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