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CRIME

Vatican to dig up graves in search for missing teenager

The Vatican will dig up two graves on Thursday after an anonymous tip-off that they may contain the remains of Emanuela Orlandi, an Italian teenager who went missing 36 years ago.

Vatican to dig up graves in search for missing teenager
Demonstrators hold pictures of Emanuela Orlandi, last seen in June 1983. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, was last seen leaving a music class aged 15, and theories have circulated for decades about who took her and where her body may lie.

Her brother Pietro, who has campaigned tirelessly for the Vatican to open an investigation into her disappearance, will be present when the gravesare opened at the Teutonic Cemetery.

The exhumation comes after the family's lawyer received a tip-off with a picture of an angel-topped grave in the cemetery, and a message which simply read: “Look where the angel is pointing”.

READ ALSO: Vatican to open investigation into cold case of missing teen

The small, leafy cemetery, located on the original site of the Emperor Nero circus, is usually the last resting place for German-speaking members of Catholic institutions.

Beyond St Peter's Basilica, in an area off-limits to tourists, neat rows of tombstones lie behind a wrought-iron gate, some shaded by palm trees, others bordered by pink roses.

The tombs that will be opened belong to two princesses, buried in 1836 and 1840.

A view over the Vatican City. Photo: Depositphotos

The remains found within will be removed and examined on-site by Italian forensic anthropologist Giovanni Arcudi.

He expects to be able to roughly date the bones within about five hours, he said in an interview published by the Vatican on Wednesday.

“The state of conservation of the bones is what will determine the time required.

“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.

It will be possible to say “whether a bone has been there 50 years or 150 years”.

He expects to be able to determine the gender and whether or not the remains belong to more than one person per tomb.

Arcudi will extract material for DNA analysis, regardless of his initial findings.

“The DNA test will be done in any case, in order to be certain and to exclude definitively and categorically the chance that any remains in the two tombs are attributable to poor Emanuela,” he said.

Results could take up to 60 days, he added.

'Hoped to find her alive'

“I've always hoped she's alive, and to find her alive,” 60-year-old Pietro Orlandi, whose mother still lives within the Vatican walls, told AFP on Wednesday.

“But if Emanuela is dead and is buried there, it's right that what has been hidden for so many years comes to light”.

According to some theories widely circulated in Italian media, the teen was snatched by a mobster gang to put pressure on the Vatican to recover a loan.

Outside the Vaican, a protestor's shirt reads: “You said she was in heaven, but where's her body?”. Photo: Andrea Solaro/AFP

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.

The family braced for a possible breakthrough last year, when human remains were found at a Vatican property in Rome, but tests showed the skeleton did not belong to a teenage girl.

In 2017, conspiracy theorists were driven into a frenzy by a leaked – but apparently falsified – document, purportedly written by a cardinal and pointing to a Vatican cover-up.

Five years earlier, forensic experts exhuming the tomb of a notorious crime boss at a Vatican church uncovered some 400 boxes of bones.

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.

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CRIME

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

Thirty years ago, the Sicilian mafia killed judge Giovanni Falcone with a bomb so powerful it was registered by experts monitoring volcanic tremors from Etna on the other side of the island.

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

The explosion, which ripped through a stretch of motorway near Palermo at 5.56 pm on May 23rd 1992, sent shockwaves across Italy, but also signalled the start of the mafia’s decline.

Anti-mafia prosecuting magistrate Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort were killed.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend.

At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

The three policemen on board were killed instantly.

READ ALSO: Could body found on Italy’s Mount Etna help solve long-standing mafia mystery?

Falcone, whose wife was sitting beside him, had slowed seconds before the explosion and the car slammed into a concrete guard rail.

His chauffeur, who was sitting in the back, survived, as did the three agents in the convoy’s rear.

A “garden of memory” now stands on the site of the attack. Oil from olive trees that grow there is used by Sicilian churches for anointing children during baptisms and confirmations.

‘Mafia massacre’

Falcone posed a real threat to the Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by “The Godfather” trilogy and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

It was he who gathered evidence from the first mafia informants for a groundbreaking trial in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

And at the time of the attack, he headed the justice ministry’s criminal affairs department in Rome and was working on a package of anti-mafia laws.

His murder woke the nation up. The Repubblica daily attacked the “mafia massacre” in its headline the next day, with a photo of the famous moustachioed magistrate, while thousands of people in Palermo protested in the streets.

All eyes turned to fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s close friend and colleague, who gave an interview at the start of July saying the “extreme danger” he was in would not stop him doing his job.

On July 19th, just 57 days after his friend, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Amid national outrage, the state threw everything it had at hunting down Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who was involved in dozens of murders during a reign of terror lasting over 20 years.

Riina was arrested on January 15th, 1993, in a car in Palermo.

The truth?

The murders of Falcone and Borsellino “in the long term turned out to be a very bad business for Cosa Nostra, whose management team was decapitated by arrests and informants’ confessions”, Vincenzo Ceruso, author of several books on the mafia, told AFP.

Dozens of people have been convicted for their roles in the assassinations.

But Roberto di Bella, now an anti-mafia judge at the Catania juvenile court in Sicily, said that while “the majority of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted”, there remained “a part that is still not clear”.

Survivors insist there are still bits of the puzzle missing and point to Falcone’s belief there could be “possible points of convergence between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and the shadowy centres of power”.

“We still don’t have the truth about who really ordered the murder of Giovanni Falcone, because I don’t believe that ignorant people like Toto Riina could have organised an attack as sophisticated as that in Capaci,” Angelo Corbo, one of the surviving bodyguards, said in a documentary.

He said he was not alone in believing there were “men in suits and ties” among the mobsters.

However, an investigation into possible “hidden orchestrators” of the Capaci attack was thrown out in 2013.

“There is no evidence of the existence of external backers. There is no doubt that these are mafia acts,” author Ceruso said.

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