Vatican graves opened in search for missing girl turn up empty

Vatican graves opened in the search for Emanuela Orlandi yielded no human remains at all(Photo: Reuters)

Two 19th century graves opened at the Vatican on Thursday have offered up no further clues to the disappearance of a schoolgirl missing for 36 years.

Emanuela Orlandi was the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican bank employee and lived in Vatican City when she went missing on June 22, 1983.

As part of renewed attempts to solve the case, the Vatican agreed to open the graves of two princesses in its Teutonic Cemetery. 

In a further twist to the case, the search of the graves has yielded no results, not even the remains of the two princesses supposed to be buried there. 

"A careful inspection of the tomb of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe brought to light a large underground space of about 4 meters by 3.70 that is completely empty," said Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of Vatican communications.

"Subsequently, the second tomb, that of Princess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg was opened. No human remains were found inside.

"The relatives of the two Princesses were informed of the outcome of the search." 

The opening of the graves was preceded by a prayer and conducted in the presence of police authorities and the Orlandi family lawyer, as well as her brother Pietro Orlandi. 

Gisotti told reporters that a separate investigation is underway to look into structural work that was carried out in that section of the cemetery at the end of the 19th century and again in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Orlandi's disappearance has puzzled investigators - and fuelled conspiracy theories - for decades, but the search gained renewed impetus after a tip-off earlier this year told the family to "look where the angel is pointing". 

The anonymous letter claimed that Orlandi was buried in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery under an angel statue with hands pointing towards the ground.