Mafia twist in mystery of schoolgirl who vanished from Vatican 40 years ago

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New evidence has added a Mafia twist to the mystery of a schoolgirl who vanished from the Vatican 40 years ago.

Emanuela Orlandi, 15, the daughter of a Vatican employee, vanished on the way home from a flute lesson in 1983.

The mystery, which has gripped Italy ever since her disappearance, now sees claims that a mafia boss ordered her kidnapping to blackmail the Vatican.

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The case has embarrassed the Holy See for almost 40 years with claims officials knew what happened to Emanuela and covered it up.

Now new evidence directly points the finger at Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, boss of the Rome criminal gang the Magliana Band.

Salvatore Sarnataro said his mafioso son Marco had confessed to taking part in an operation to follow and kidnap Emanuela on De Pedis' orders.

Salvatore said his son was living in "terror" and spilled the beans while they were both in jail on drugs charges.

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His testimony was given in 2008 – a year after Marco died – but was reported publicly for the first time this week by La Repubblica.

It also revealed witness accounts from two of Emanuela's friends identifying Marco Sarnataro from a police photograph as the man who followed her in the days before her kidnapping.

Her father worked for the Catholic Church as a clerk and lived with his family in an apartment in Vatican City.

She was last seen at a bus stop talking to a woman with red hair.

In the run-up to the 39th anniversary of her disappearance in June, Emanuela's brother Pietro Orlandi said he had received new evidence that convinced him that people in the Vatican knew what had happened to her.

The Magliana Band has been implicated before in the long-running mystery.

Maurizio Abbatino, another former gangster who has collaborated with the police, has previously said De Pedis ordered the kidnapping to blackmail the Vatican.

He said De Pedis was seeking to recover money lost in Banco Ambrosiano.

The Vatican's banking arm was the largest shareholder, and its collapse in 1982 was Italy's biggest political scandal of the era.

In 2005, an anonymous caller on a TV crime show suggested investigators should search for Emanuela's remains in De Pedis’ tomb.

Last December, a former chief prosecutor in Rome shockingly accused the Vatican of a cover-up over its role in the search.

Giancarlo Capaldo told a TV documentary two senior Vatican officials approached him in 2012 offering to help find Emanuela's body.

In return, they wanted the prosecutor's help removing the mafia don's body from the crypt of a Roman basilica when he was buried after being shot in 1990.

Pope Benedict agreed to open the tomb but the schoolgirl was not there.

The Vatican’s readiness to return the body was an implicit admission of guilt, he added.

He said Capaldo's successor as chief prosecutor – who shelved the inquiry – was rewarded by Pope Francis with an appointment as head of the Vatican tribunal when he retired in 2019.

Emanuela's exact fate remains unknown.


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