"Lured to Her Death by Vatican Cardinal Paedophile Ring or Kidnapped in Revenge by Italy Mobster?" Enduring Mystery of Girl, 15, Who Vanished on Way Home from Flute Class after Pope Told Family, "She's in Heaven"
By Hannah Roberts
October 30, 2015
The mysterious disappearance of the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican official is Italy's most enduring cold case.
Emanuela Orlandi vanished while on her way home from a flute lesson in July 1983, and was never seen again.
It sparked an international intrigue that has pointed to the Stasi, the Italian mob and even a Satanic sex cult among the cardinals.
|Vanished: Emanuela Orlandi (pictured), the daughter of a Vatican official, was 15 when she disappeared on her way home from a flute lesson July 1983, prompting one of Italy's great unsolved mysteries |
|Mystery: Since her disappearance there have been a number of unfounded theories and lines of investigation including claims she was kidnapped by the Italian mafia and killed by a paedophile satanic sex cult|
The teenager, the fourth of five children in a devoutly Catholic family, was enticed to meet her abductors with the offer of some work distributing leaflets at a fashion show for Avon cosmetics.
In reality, the Avon job did not exist. No one has ever been convicted of her disappearance and no body has ever been found.
The original theory followed by investigators was that she was kidnapped to secure the release of the would-be assassin who tried to kill John Paul II.
But Vatican insiders have claimed that she died under the influence of drugs at a satanic sex party with prelates.
Others insist she was is still alive and living secretly in a convent with the knowledge of the Vatican.
In the latest investigation, prosecutors worked on the premise that Emanuela was kidnapped and killed by extreme right Italian mobsters who had lost tens of millions of dollars after they invested it in the troubled Vatican Bank.
A witness claimed said she saw the teenager's body, wrapped in a bin-bag, thrown into a cement mixer, in a seaside resort near Rome.
But now judges in Italy have controversially closed the decades-old case in what will seemingly remain one of the country's greatest unsolved mysteries.
Despite fierce opposition from the Orlandi family, investigators said there was not enough evidence to go to trial.
Today, in an exclusive interview Emanuela's brother Pietro told of his astonishment at the decision to bring to an end the family's 32-year quest for justice.
'We want to reach the truth, whatever it is,' he told MailOnline.
'There are still so many indications to investigate. I ask myself how, after so many years have passed, it is possible that there is no one on this earth with the courage to say what happened.'
The family has always hoped that Emanuela is still alive somewhere and have appealed to Pope Francis to open the Vatican files, shedding light on a shadowy hour in its history.
|Peculiar: Emanuela's family has never given up hope of one day finding her alive. Newspapers were contacted days after her disappearance by a Turkish anti-Christian group who said they were holding her to negotiate the release of the man who tried to assassinate Pope John-Paul II in 1981|
|Heartbroken: Now judges in Italy have closed Judges have decided to close the 32-year unsolved mystery of Emanuela's disappearance, much to the disappointment of her family (pictured, her parents)|
|Anger: Following the decision to close the case, Emanuela's brother Pietro (centre) told Mail Online: 'We want to reach the truth, whatever it is'|
But while Francis appears to have cleaned up the Vatican bank and promises to bring transparency to the church, he has refused to provide the family with the answers they need.
When the newly minted pope met the schoolgirl's mother Maria at a mass in 2013 he shook her hand and said: 'Emanuela is in heaven.'
Her brother Pietro, surprised, told the Pope: 'Until there is proof to the contrary, I live in hope that she's alive. And I hope you will help me find the truth.'
But the Pope repeated: 'She's in heaven.'
It must be a secret that weighs heavily on the church. I think that the case has been closed after 32 years because they still don't want to open the Pandora's Box
Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela's brother
Since then, Pietro says, he has repeatedly tried to get an explanation from the Vatican but has not received a reply. 'I want to understand if she is dead or alive. He says she's dead now? How does he know?' he said.
The truth 'must come from the Vatican,' he said. 'She was a Vatican citizen. But they have never collaborated with investigators. They have always obstructed the investigation. They have behaved in a way that is not Christian.'
A month after Emanuela went missing, he was told of a memo from the Italian Prime Minister's office to the Vatican recommending that they 'do not - with the Orlandi's case - open a Pandora's Box that would be difficult to close'.
He said now: 'It must be a secret that weighs heavily on the church. I think that the case has been closed after 32 years because they still don't want to open the Pandora's Box.'
Pietro claims a monsignor told him that John Paul II had made Emanuela's disappearance an official pontifical secret, 'an order that no one in the Vatican would dare break'.
|Bizarre: The original theory followed by investigators was that Emanuela was kidnapped to secure the release of the would-be assassin who tried to kill John Paul II (pictured)|
|When Pope Francis (pictured) met Emanuela's mother Maria at a mass in 2013 he shook her hand and said: 'Emanuela is in heaven'|
|Conspiracy: Pietro claims he was told that John Paul II made Emanuela's (pictured) disappearance an official pontifical secret - 'an order that no one in the Vatican would dare break'|
Emanuela, a talented musician who attended lessons at a conservatory three times a week, spent the afternoon of June 22, 1983, buying pizza ingredients for the family's supper. There was no hint that she would run away, her family says.
She left home wearing a white T-shirt, denim overalls and running shoes, took a bus across the river, then walked the final few yards to her flute lesson next to Sant'Apollinare church.
She phoned home after her lesson at 7pm telling her sister about the Avon job and agreed to discuss it with her parents. That was the last time they heard from her.
When she didn't return home that night her father filed a missing person's report and the worried family placed an advert in the local newspaper.
As they searched in vain over the next few days, the family received phone calls from two men who claimed to have met a girl matching Emanuela's description carrying a flute.
The callers claimed, possibly in an effort to delay a police search, that she had run away, but would return for her sister's wedding that September.
Then on July 3, 11 days after Emanuela disappeared, Pope John Paul made a public appeal for her 'speedy return', at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square.
It was the first time the Orlandi family heard someone suggest Emanuela had been kidnapped, Pietro explained. And it catapaulted the case into the public eye.
Two days later a third caller claimed that he and his gang were the kidnappers and were negotiating with the Vatican for the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who attempted to kill the pope in 1981.
There were more than a dozen calls between the kidnappers and the Vatican prime minister, the pope's number two, via a special direct line.
|Into thin air: Emanuela phoned her sister Natalina after her flute lesson on the night she disappeared and said she was going to meet an Avon representative about delivering some leaflets. The job never existed and it was the last time they heard her voice|
|Negotiation: In July 1983, a Turkish Anti-Christian group claimed they took Emanuela and would return her in exchange for release of Mehmet Ali Agca (right), the man who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II (right) in 1981|
The Vatican has always refused to hand the tapes of those conversations over to the courts or the family.
Italian newspapers received letters from a group calling itself the Turkish Anti-Christian Liberation Front demanding Agca's release.
But investigators later found that the real source of these letters was the Stasi the East German Intelligence Service.
Emanuela's kidnap, they concluded, was an attempt to blackmail the pope into ending his funding of the Polish trade union Solidarity movement, which was threatening to bring down Communism. The Stasi wanted it to look like Islamic terrorism.
In December 1983 the pope visited the Orlandi family. He told them only that the case involved 'international terrorism'.
A few days later he visited his would-be assassin Agca in jail, and forgave him. But Emanuela still was not returned.
According to some witnesses, she was already dead. Investigative journalist Pino Nicotri, who wrote three books on the case, claimed in a 2008 book that Emanuela had a relationship with a cardinal and died the night she disappeared in a sex game gone wrong.
Later, the Catholic church's chief exorcist Gabriele Amorth, alleged she was part of a paedophile sex ring in the Vatican and was killed in a Satanic orgy.
In 1997 the enquiries were halted – they were useless as the Vatican refused to cooperate with the Italian investigators.
Without getting any closer to truth, Emanuela's father Ercole died in 2004. He always held onto the belief that she was being held hostage in Turkey and would one day come home.
|Claims: The Catholic church's chief exorcist Gabriele Amorth, alleged that Emanuela (pictured) was part of a paedophile sex ring in the Vatican|
Then in 2005 there appeared to come a breakthrough.
A former member of the right-wing crime syndicate Banda della Magliana, which terrorised Rome in the 1970s and 80s, claimed that the gang had kidnapped Emanuela.
The group was laundering its profits of their robbery, kidnap and extortion through the Banco Ambrosiano, a bank closely tied to the Vatican's own bank, Antonio Mancini claimed.
But the Banco Ambrosiano collapsed in 1982 and its head Roberto Calvi was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge.
The gang leader, Enrico 'Renatino' de Pedis wanted to retrieve the money and used Emanuela to blackmail the Vatican, he claimed.
The claim was corroborated by de Pedis' former lover, Sabrina Minardi, who told prosecutors that she had seen Emanuela's dead body thrown into a cement mixer in November 1983.
Emanuela was initially taken to a house on the seaside, then an apartment with a vast underground cavity, on the Gianicolo hill near the Vatican, she said. She was then entrusted to a priest.
High level Vatican insiders, including the head of its bank, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus were involved in the plot, she claimed.
Minardi abused cocaine for years and parts of her account are clearly wrong. But lead prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo found elements of it convincing. The underground cellar on Gianicolo had almost certainly been used as a prison.
The investigation was restarted, and six people were put under formal investigation as suspects, including Minardi and the driver, although de Pedis himself had been shot by rivals.
|Secrets: A former member of the right-wing crime syndicate Banda della Magliana claimed senior Vatican officials including head of its bank Archbishop Paul Marcinkus (pictured), were involved in an abduction|
After a tip off, it emerged that the crime boss had been given a secret grave in the Basilica of Sant Apolinare, attached to the very building where Emanuela had her music lessons.
In 2012 investigators opened his diamond-encrusted tomb, and amid the stench of death found additional human remains, including the skull of a young girl.
The macabre mystery could finally be solved, it seemed. But DNA tests showed that the remains did not belong to Emanuela.
The prosecutor said that 'high up people in the Vatican knew what happened and should be questioned'.
But following the statement the new chief prosecutor took over the case. Giancarlo Capaldo was demoted to deputy.
Over the decades the family has been tortured with sightings, incredible claims and obvious hoaxes.
They went to London where Emanuela was supposedly living in a psychiatric hospital but there was no trace. A woman in a convent in Luxembourg falsely claimed to be Emanuela.
A paparazzo even stole tampons from the family bins and claimed to have conducted DNA tests on them which proved that Emanuela was in fact alive and was pretending to be her brother Pietro's wife.
Amid all the red herrings, the family believe crucial evidence has been ignored. Agca, the attempted assassin, spent 19 years in an Italian prison before returning to Turkey. Last December he drove across the Balkans to Rome and demanded to be interviewed by investigators on the Orlandi case.
To Pietro's disappointment he was swiftly deported and his testimony was not taken.
But he told Italian television show Quarto Grado that the girls were kidnapped on the orders of the Iranian government, in order to obtain his freedom, with help from inside the Vatican.
He added: 'After my return to Turkey, Emanuela Orlandi was freed and sent to the Vatican. 'Now she is in a convent so that the complicity of the Vatican with the Iranian government is never revealed.'
Pietro said: 'There are so many theories, each one worse than the last. And every one of them has some truth in it.'
'But with this case there have always been so many distractions to keep us away from the truth.'
In April this year, the chief prosecutor requested the closing of the case saying the witnesses were not reliable and there was not enough evidence to go to trial.
But, in a remarkable act of defiance, Capaldi, the original prosecutor who had doggedly pursued the case since 2005, refused to sign the document. In spite of his objection, the case was closed.
|Mystery: Prosecutors also worked on the theory Emanuela (pictured) was killed by Italian mafia lost tens of millions of dollars when Vatican-linked bank collapsed. It was claimed mobster Enrico 'Renatino' de Pedis wanted his money back - and used Emanuela to blackmail the Vatican|
Over thirty two years the missing person's photograph of Emanuela wearing an AS Roma headband has become an icon for justice refused.
The Orlandis feel betrayed by the Vatican but they will never give up, Pietro says. 'The Vatican were our family. My mother still lives there. We were all citizens. I grew up there playing there in the gardens. It's still home. I don't understand why they turned their backs on us.
'Pope Francis said 'who is indifferent is complicit'. So for me they are complicit.'