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The Most Convoluted Missing Person Case of the 80s Involving the Vatican

Antonia R.Antonia R.
Emanuela Orlandi

On June 22, 1983, 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi went to her weekly flute lesson. After it had ended, she called her sister on the phone to discuss Emanuela's first job offer. Shortly after, she disappeared without a trace, her fate a mystery.

The Vatican, the Grey Wolves and a Roman terrorist organization have all been blamed for her disappearance but the girl has remained missing, even after Pope John Paul II issued a plea for her release.

After the Pope's official statement, the Vatican received 16 telephone calls, only several of which were investigated. In one of these, the potential kidnapper stated that he would free Emanuela if Ali Ağca, the man who shot the Pope, were released from prison. However, this proved to be a prank call.

Among the 1st of the alleged theories, investigators looked to the Banda della Magliana - the largest terrorist group in Rome. They are known for kidnapping underage girls and forcing them into prostitution, usually offering them a job as bait.

The day before her disappearance, Emanuela had been considering starting a job at a cosmetics store. But there has been little concrete evidence of this theory and it become largely forgotten after a man anonymously called the TV station RAI in 2005 and claimed that the body of the girl was buried alongside the body of mob boss Enrico De Pedis.


De Pedis died in 1990, while his remains were buried at the Sant'Apollinare Basilica. In 2012, his body was exhumed, but Emanuela's body was not found alongside his.

Not long after this, the gangster's ex-lover, Sabrina Minardi, claimed that he was carrying out orders for the Vatican. According to Sabrina, he had kidnapped the girl and kept her locked up for 6 months, after which he killed her. However, Sabrina was a known drug addict and had changed details of her story several times, leading police to discount her testimony as unreliable.

The name of the Holy See has been the one to most frequently appear in any investigation into Emanuela's disappearance. In 2011, her brother Pietro appeared on a TV program, holding a document according to which the girl was being held at a London mental institution under the influence of opiates.

The document, signed by cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti, stated that the Vatican had spent 483 million pounds to kidnap and conceal Emanuela. Pietro said he had obtained the report from a former agent of Vatican intelligence.

But the Holy See refutes the accusations in the document, reminding that over the years they've made numerous attempts to assist police in finding the Italian girl.

Despite this her family doesn't buy it and continues to ask why the girl was taken to the British capital in complete secrecy, as well as whether she's still alive 34 years after she was last seen.