Vatican begins digging up cemetery in missing teen search

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – The Vatican began digging up two graves yesterday after an anonymous tip-off that they may contain the remains of an Italian teenager who went missing 36 years ago.

Emanuela 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.

Orlandi’s brother Pietro, who has never given up hope of finding her alive, arrived early at the site as a small group of forensic scientists, tomb curators and an expert appointed by the family began to open the graves 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”.

The Vatican said yesterday it would be opening both the “angel” tomb and a similar-looking one next to it “in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings about which tomb was indicated”.

The small, leafy plot, 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.

Dozens of media outlets and crowds of curious tourists were gathered at the entrance to the Vatican nearest the cemetery.