A cryptic message about a teenager who went missing in Italy nearly four decades ago led investigators to a chilling discovery in a Vatican City cemetery.
As CBS News reports, Emanuela Orlandi was 15 and living with her family in Vatican City when she vanished after finishing a flute lesson on June 22, 1983. The daughter of a banker, Orlandi was reportedly last seen at a bus stop in Rome, and the circumstances of her disappearance have remained a mystery in the decades since she went missing.
According to the report, Orlandi’s family received an anonymous tip with a cryptic message along with a photograph of a marble angel statue looking down on the tombs of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who reportedly died in 1836, and Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklemburg, who died in 1840. Both tombs are at the Teutonic Cemetery, the only graveyard within Vatican City walls.
“I received a letter with a picture in it,” Orlandi family lawyer Laura Sgro told CBS News. “The letter said: ‘If you want to find Emanuela, search where the angel is looking.'”
On Thursday, a group that reportedly included Vatican police, forensic scientists, and members of Orlandi’s family gathered at the Teutonic Cemetary to open both tombs. But not only was there no trace of the missing teen, the tombs did not contain any remains — including those of the princesses.
CBS obtained a statement from Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti saying that the search for remains “produced negative results: no human findings or funerary urns were found.”
“Careful inspection of the tomb of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe has unearthed a large underground compartment of about 4 meters by 3.70, completely empty,” Gisotti’s statement continued.
“Subsequently, the opening of the second tomb-sarcophagus took place, that of Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklemburg. Inside it, no human remains were found. The family members of the two Princesses were informed of the results of the research.”
It is not clear at this time what authorities believe may have happened to the remains of the princesses. According to the report, investigators had previously searched the tomb of a Roman mobster in 2012, following a tip that Orlandi might be found there, but there was nothing out of the ordinary found in the tomb.
While there has been little concrete evidence in the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance, rumors have reportedly swirled that she may have been kidnapped in connection to a purported Vatican sex slavery ring or was kidnapped in an effort to secure the release of the man who attempted to murder Pope John Paul II. Another theory is that she may have been murdered in connection to bank scandals in the 1980s.
According to the report, Vatican officials are continuing to investigate the removal of remains from the tombs.
[Feature image: Missing persons flyer]