Search for missing woman yields empty tomb

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The two Vatican tombs opened on 11 July in relation to the Emanuela Orlandi mystery have been found empty, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

Emanuela's disappearance in 1983 is one of the most enduring modern mysteries of the headquarters of the Catholic Church and has been the subject of much speculation by Italian media.

The Vatican approved the opening of two tombs, which are located next to each other near the statue in question.

The dig followed an anonymous tip-off that the Teutonic Cemetery in the tiny city state may be the last resting place of Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee.

Orlandi's family received an anonymous letter past year that told them to "search where the angel looks", along with a picture of an angel statue in the Teutonic Cemetery, located inside the Vatican. Another claim often repeated in the press was that she was abducted to force the release of Mehmet Ali Agca from prison, who was the Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Princess Sophie's tomb led to a large empty underground room and no human remains were found in Princess Carlotta's tomb, he said.

The tombs opened were those of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who died in 1840. After searching for Emanuela incessantly for three decades, the family's lawyer had said they wouldn't be happy "if they find Emanuela's corpse just 200 yards from their home". "In that moment I told myself, "he knows something, more than us", he said. Inside it, no human remains were found.

Gisotti highlighted how the Holy See has always shown sensitivity and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi Family, in particular to Emanuela's mother.

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Vatican officials said they plan to research records to investigate why neither of the princesses' remains were in their tombs. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

Sgro said the family went to the Teutonic Cemetery and quickly found the "Tomb of the Angel", and they noticed something that seemed to be amiss.

This is not the first time tombs or possible burial sites have been exhumed in search of Emanuela's remains.

Once the tombs are opened the remains inside will be inventoried and catalogued before tests are conducted on the age of the remains and their DNA.

And a year ago, a bag of bones was found during ground work at the Vatican embassy in Rome, but DNA tests turned out negative.

The family braced for a possible breakthrough past year, when human remains were found at a Vatican property in Rome, but the bones discovered dated back to an earlier period.

The Vatican's next step following the discovery, Gisotti explained, will be to look into documentation about structural renovations that took place in the cemetery at the end of the 1800s and in the 1960s and '70s.

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