The Vatican has opened an investigation into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi who was just 15 when she disappeared in 1983, the family's lawyer has revealed.
The internal investigation will examine evidence that Emanuela may be buried in a tomb in the Teutonic cemetery inside the Vatican.
The Orlandi family asked the Vatican to open and investigate the tomb after they received an anonymous letter that her remains were in the tomb, where Princess Sofia of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort and her descendant, Cardinal Gustav von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst are buried.
The letter's author refers to a marble statue of an angel positioned above the tomb and whose hand points to the ground. “Look where the angel is pointing,” the author says.
Emanuela, the daughter of a Vatican bank functionary, disappeared from the streets of Rome on her way to a music lesson.
Among many theories of what happened to her, there has been speculation she was kidnapped by an organised crime gang or taken hostage in an attempt to force the release from prison of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.
In 2005, an anonymous caller to an Italian television show said the secret to her kidnap was buried along with Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, a Mafia boss who led the feared Magliana gang which terrorised Rome in the 1980s.
Laura Sgrò, the family’s lawyer, who has in the past few days met with police, told Italian media that the Secretariat of State had "authorised the opening of investigations".
Emanuela's brother Pietro Orlandi said: "We have presented to the Vatican a series of instances, including relating to the tomb in the Teutonic cemetery in the Vatican, but also more. We hope that the moment has finally arrived to ascertain the truth and to give justice to Emanuela."
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti made no comment.