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Bones found after tombs exhumed in hunt for girl who went missing in Vatican City 30 years ago

Giada Zampano
Two tombs at the Teutonic Cemetery in Vatican City were opened this week in relation to the investigation of Emanuela Orlandi's disappearance more than 30 years ago  - REX

Thirty years after the disappearance of the 15-year old daughter of a Vatican City employee, a case that has mystified Rome for decades, the Vatican has announced that two sets of bones have been found under a stone manhole cover in one of its cemeteries.

A request from the family of the missing girl, Emanuela Orlandi, prompted the Vatican to open the tombs of two 19th-century German princesses in the cemetery of the Pontifical Teutonic College on Thursday this week. The family had received an anonymous tip that Orlandi's remains might be buried in that area of the cemetery.

However, after two hours of work, the team found the graves completely empty - containing neither the expected remains of the princesses or any clues to the more modern mystery.

Following the fruitless exhumation, Vatican police decided to hold new searches in the area of the cemetery where the remains of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklenburg, who died in 1840, should have been.

Vatican authorities said their bones could have been moved over the years due to structural works at the cemetery in the 1960s and 1970s.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Saturday the searches had centered on the area adjacent to the princesses' tombs, inside the Pontifical Teutonic College. There investigators identified two ossuaries – or set of bones – located under the pavement of an area covered by a manhole.

Mr Gisotti added the area was immediately sealed off and the ossuaries will be opened in the presence of forensic experts on July 20 for further investigations.

The two set of bones could belong to the two princesses, but could also bring the search for Orlandi a step forward.

The daughter of a Vatican bank employee, Orlandi disappeared in June 1983 after leaving her family's Vatican City apartment for a music lesson in Rome. Over the years,there have been many rumours, some wilder than others, about what happened to her – including conspiracies tied to the Mafia, the Vatican bank scandal and the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II.

The new inspections were a result of the ongoing efforts of the Orlandi family to find the truth about the disappearance of their relative.

The Vatican gave the green light to the exhumations after the family received an anonymous note last summer, hinting that the girl's remains might be in one of the two graves located in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery.

According to the letter, Orlandi’s body should have been found in the tomb that an angel holding a sheet saying: “Rest in peace” points to from its location on the cemetery wall.