Inside decades-old mystery of missing girl, 15, who disappeared after flute lesson and how ‘Vatican covered it up’

THE decades-old disappearance of a missing Italian teen girl has garnered fresh attention after the Vatican was shockingly accused of a cover-up.

Prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo said two senior Vatican officials offered to help find the body of Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee who vanished in June 1983.

In a documentary interview broadcast on national TV last night, Capaldo said he was approached by the two men in 2012 when he was acting head of the Rome prosecutor’s office.

In return, they wanted help in obtaining the removal of the body of a Rome crime boss, Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, from the crypt of a Roman basilica, where he was buried after being shot in 1990.

De Pedis, the boss of the notorious Magliana Band, had been linked to the disappearance of Orlandi, after she went missing from a flute lesson in a music school attached to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare.

In 2005, an anonymous caller on a TV crime show suggested investigators should begin their hunt for Emanuela in De Pedis’ tomb, and the missing person's case has been a cause of embarrassment for the Vatican ever since.

After consulting a higher authority, Pope Benedict XVI said the Vatican was happy to assist and De Pedis' body was exhumed in 2012.

However, the Vatican's favour was never returned as Capaldo was replaced by a new chief prosecutor, Giuseppe Pignatone, who swiftly shelved the investigation.

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The former magistrate, who worked some of Italy’s most sensitive mafia and terrorism trials, said he would identify the Vatican officials if questioned.

He said: “If I were summonsed in the context of a serious judicial inquiry I would say who these people were, if people other than me were present and whether the conversation was recorded.”

Orlandi's disappearance has sparked numerous conspiracy theories including a plot to kill Pope John Paul II, the collapse of a Vatican bank, the Mafia and the intelligence services.

Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother and a tireless campaigner for truth on her behalf said Capaldo’s revelations were an important step forward.

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

He told The Times: “Their willingness to return the body means they know everything.

"They wanted the prosecutors to find a way to keep the Vatican out of it, to concoct a story that eliminated any responsibility on the part of the Vatican.”

Orlandi hopes Capaldo’s successors will take evidence from him and follow wherever it leads.

He added: “A lot will depend on the courage of the prosecutor’s office. They will have my support and all of public opinion."

He said Pignatone had been quick to shelve Capaldo’s inquiry and was rewarded by Pope Francis with an appointment as head of the Vatican tribunal when he retired in 2019.

In 2019, the family received an anonymous, cryptic letter claiming the schoolgirl is buried in a tomb in the Teutonic Cemetery.

Two sets of remains were found by police, but neither of them were connected to the disappearance of Orlandi.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi is the subject of a forthcoming Netflix documentary.

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