Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi

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Emanuela Orlandi
Born (1968-01-14)14 January 1968
Vatican City State
Disappeared 22 June 1983 (aged 15)
Rome, Italy
Status Missing for 34 years, 10 months and 27 days
Nationality Italian
Height 160 cm (5.2 ft)
  • Ercole Orlandi (father)
  • Maria Orlandi (mother)
Family Pietro Orlandi (brother)

Emanuela Orlandi (born 14 January 1968) was a citizen of Vatican City who mysteriously disappeared on 22 June 1983. Sightings of Emanuela in various places have been reported over the years, even inside Vatican City, but all have been unreliable. The Orlandi case is still unsolved.


Orlandi was the fourth of the five children of Ercole and Maria Orlandi. Her father was an employee of the Institute for the Works of Religion (the "Vatican Bank"). He and his family lived inside Vatican City.[1] Orlandi was in her second year at a liceo scientifico (a scientific high school) in Rome. Although the school year had concluded, she continued to take flute lessons three times per week at the Tommaso Ludovico Da Victoria School, connected with the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. She was also part of the choir of the church of Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri in the Vatican.

Orlandi usually travelled by bus to the music school. She would get off the bus after a few stops and then walk six or seven hundred feet (180 to 210 meters). On 22 June 1983, Orlandi was late to class. She later explained her tardiness in a phone call to her sister, during which she said she had a job offer from a representative of Avon Cosmetics. Her sister suggested she talk it over with their parents before making any decisions. Orlandi allegedly met with the Avon rep shortly before her music lesson. At the end of the lesson, Orlandi spoke of the job offer with a girlfriend, who then left the girl at a bus stop in the company of another girl. Orlandi was allegedly last seen getting into a large, dark-colored BMW.[citation needed]


At 15:00, Thursday, 23 June, her parents called the director of the music school to ask if any of their daughter's classmates had information. The police had suggested waiting because "perhaps the girl was with friends". That same day Emanuela was officially declared a "missing person". Over the next two days, announcements of the disappearance were published with the telephone number of the Orlandi house in the newspapers Il Tempo, Paese Sera and Il Messaggero.

At 18:00 on Saturday, 25 June, a phone call was received from a youth who claimed to be a 16-year-old boy named "Pierluigi".[citation needed] He reported that together with his fiancée, he had met the missing girl in Piazza Navona that afternoon.[citation needed] The young man mentioned Emanuela's flute, her hair, and the glasses that the girl did not like to wear, along with other details that fit the missing girl.[citation needed] According to "Pierluigi", Emanuela had just had a haircut and had introduced herself as "Barbarella".[citation needed] He claimed she stated that she had just run away from home and was selling Avon products.[citation needed]

On 28 June, a man calling himself "Mario" called the family and claimed to own a bar near Ponte Vittorio, between the Vatican and the Music School.[citation needed] The man said that a girl called "Barbara", a new customer, had confided to him about being a fugitive from home but said that she would return home for her sister's wedding.[citation needed] On 30 June, Rome was plastered with 3,000 posters containing Emanuela Orlandi's photograph.[citation needed]

On Sunday, 3 July, Pope John Paul II, during the Angelus, appealed to those responsible for Emanuela Orlandi's disappearance, making the hypothesis of kidnapping official for the first time. Two days later, the Orlandi family received the first of a number of anonymous phone calls.[citation needed] Emanuela was supposedly the prisoner of a terrorist group demanding the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish man who shot the Pope in Saint Peter's Square on 13 May 1981.[citation needed] No other information was given. In the following days, other calls were received, including one from a man identified as "The American", due to his apparent accent, who played a recording of Emanuela's voice over the phone.[citation needed] A few hours later, in another phone call to the Vatican, the same man suggested an exchange, of Orlandi for Alì Ağca.[citation needed] The anonymous interlocutor mentioned the "Mario" and "Pierluigi" of the earlier telephone calls, defining them as "members of the organization".[citation needed]

On 6 July, a man with a young voice and an American accent informed ANSA news agency of the demand for an Orlandi-Ağca exchange, asking for the Pope's participation within 20 days and indicating that a basket in the public square near the Parliament would contain proof that Orlandi was indeed in his hands.[citation needed] These were to have been photocopies of her Music School I.D., a receipt, and a note handwritten by the kidnapped girl. However, the Magistrate who was overseeing Orlandi's case did not believe that there was a credible connection between the Orlandi abduction and the Pope's assailant.

On 8 July, a man with an alleged Middle Eastern accent phoned one of Orlandi's classmates saying Orlandi was in his hands and that they had 20 days to make the exchange with Alì Ağca.[citation needed] The man also asked for a direct telephone line with then-Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli.[citation needed] The line was installed on 18 July.[citation needed] A total of 16 telephone calls were made by "The American" from different public telephone booths.[citation needed]

On the morning of 14 May 2001, the parish priest of the Gregory VII Church near the Vatican discovered a human skull of small dimensions and lacking a jaw in a bag with an image of Padre Pio in a confessional.[citation needed] It has not been officially identified as Orlandi's skull.

Emanuela's father, Ercole, died in 2004, a month after giving his last interview.[1]


Over the years a number of theories regarding the motives for the crime have been broached in the Italian press.

Orlandi-Ağca connection theory[edit]

Ağca, who once declared that Orlandi had been kidnapped by Bulgarian agents of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist youth organization of which Ağca was a member, spoke about Orlandi during a prison interview with Italy's RAI state television, telling the interviewer that the girl was alive, not in danger, and living in a cloistered convent.[citation needed] He denied any direct knowledge of the girl's fate, though, saying that he had made "some logical deductions". With no evidence to support these claims, the case was closed in July 1997.

In mid-2000, Judge Ferdinando Imposimato, based on what he had learned about the Grey Wolves, declared that Orlandi, by then an adult, was living a perfectly integrated life in the Muslim community and that she had probably lived for a long time in Paris.[citation needed] He remains the only supporter of this idea and of the Orlandi-Ağca connection.

In a letter published in 2006, Ağca claimed that Emanuela Orlandi and another girl, Mirella Gregori, both of whom vanished in 1983, were abducted as part of a plan to secure his release from prison.[citation needed] He claimed that the girls were whisked away to a royal palace in Liechtenstein.[citation needed] Ağca was temporarily released from an Istanbul prison after serving 25 years in Italy and Turkey for the murder of Abdi İpekçi, a prominent Turkish journalist. However, he was quickly imprisoned again, the release seemingly a "mistake". Ağca was permanently released from a Turkish prison in January 2010.[citation needed]

On 9 November 2010, Mehmet Ali Ağca was interviewed by state television in Turkey-TRT's Kozmik Oda Program for the first time after his release the prior January. In that interview as well as declaring that the Vatican organized the assassination attempt he also said that Orlandi was kept as a prisoner by the Vatican (for Ağca) and was then living in a Central European country as a nun in a Catholic monastery.[citation needed] He added that Orlandi's family could see their daughter whenever they liked, but that she was not allowed to leave the monastery. (Reference, TRT 2, and Milliyet)

De Pedis theory[edit]

In 2011, the former Banda della Magliana member Antonio Mancini[2] implied that Orlandi's kidnapping was one of a number of strikes that the gang was making against the Vatican in order to force the restitution of large amounts of money they had lent to the Vatican Bank through Roberto Calvi's Banco Ambrosiano. On 14 May 2012, Italian police exhumed the body of gangster Enrico De Pedis, having received a tip-off that the tomb contained clues as to the fate of Emanuela.[3]

Vatican sex scandal theory[edit]

In May 2012, exorcist Gabriele Amorth claimed that Emanuela was kidnapped by a member of the Vatican police for sex parties, then murdered. Amorth claims that the incident also involved the officials of an unnamed foreign embassy.[4]

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