Search for Missing Teen Leads to Discovery of 'Mass Grave' Beneath the Vatican
The mystery of Emanuela Orlandi who vanished 36 years ago
'Thousands' of bones were discovered below the Vatican on Saturday as investigators attempt to solve the mystery of a 15-year-old girl who disappeared 36 years ago.
Emanuela Orlandi's family's representatives, who have been searching for the girl since 1983, were present at the Vatican when the containers holding the bones were unsealed.
Emanuela's sister, Federica, represented her family with their lawyer, Laura Sgro, and forensic expert, Giorgio Portera.
The family stayed at the Vatican site for six hours.
"Obviously it’s an emotional experience because I think my sister's bones could be there, but I won’t think about it until we have the results,” Frederica Orlandi said.
Authorities pried open the tombs to two 19th German princesses following an anonymous tip to look for Emanuela’s remains under the statue of an angel pointing to a grave inside the Vatican walls.
But no remains where found.
Vatican officials later realized that structural work had been carried out on the cemetery and the neighboring college in the 1960s and 1970s, which may have resulted in the bones being moved.
The investigators were led to the discovery of containers of bones in a mass grave under a stone slab underneath the college.
Emanuela's brother, Pietro, told ABC News that officials had dug up a "large number of diverse bones."
It could "take weeks" to identify them all, he added.
Portera, the family's forensic expert, said: "thousands of bones have been found."
"I can't say if it's 1,000 or 2,000, but there are really very many, and so we assume the presence of the remains of a few dozen people," Portera said.
"There are long bones, small bones; many are fragmented."
Portera added that the bones were found mixed together, not sorted in any order.
"They were all piled up inside a cavity,” he added.
Alessandro Gisotti, the Vatican spokesman, released a statement Saturday saying the team gave the bones a first examination that followed "international protocols."
Further evaluations of the remains will be carried out with "an in-depth morphological analysis,’’ Gisotti said.
But it isn't clear how long the tests will take.
The Vatican has repeatedly denied it had any information on Emanuela’s disappearance.
Supporters of the girl's family gathered outside the Vatican gates with picket signs.
"The truth sets you free," one read.
"She is alive because we continue to love her," read another.
And Cinzia di Florio said the Vatican is not doing enough to solve the mystery.
"There is always a mystery behind a missing person," di Florio told ABC News.
"But here we have the Vatican behind this mystery, and that is a bit more significant."