ROME – Two days after bones found on Vatican property last week were sent for DNA testing and comparisons, more remains were uncovered in the same area, and are believed to belong to the same individual.
According to Italian agency ANSA, the new remains, found Tuesday, consist of part of a skull and jawbone. Authorities believe the fragments belong to the same partial-skeleton uncovered last week by workers carrying out restoration on a building attached to the Vatican’s embassy to Italy.
In addition to the skeleton, a separate set of bone fragments were found last week which, according to experts, appear to be older than the skeleton and are believed to belong to a second individual.
After an initial examination of the skeleton’s pelvis, it was believed that the remains belonged to a woman, however, confirmation of the age and gender of the person, as well as a rough estimate of when they died, will not come until the DNA testing is complete.
Before the new bones were found, Gianni Arcudi, director of Pathology at Rome’s Tor Vergata University and a consultant in the case, said that at first sight, the skeleton did not appear to be overly decomposed, despite having been buried in humid ground.
In comments to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Arcudi said in his view, the skeleton likely belongs to someone between 25-35 years of age – an analysis which, if true, would debunk theories that the remains belong to one of two missing teenagers who disappeared in 1983.
For many Italians, the discovery of the bones has reawakened curiosity and speculation over the cold cases of Emanuela Orlandi, whose father worked at the time for the Vatican bank and lived on Vatican property, and Mirella Gregori, who went missing about a month before Orlandi.
Neither of the girls’ bodies were ever found, and in the years since their disappearance, Orlandi in particular has become the source of many varying conspiracy theories.
According to some theories, Orlandi was kidnapped in a bid to put pressure on the Vatican to conceal the financial misdealings of mafia members found to have ties to the Vatican bank, while others, including Rome’s famed exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth, insist that the youth was murdered after being coaxed into a sex ring which had the participation of members of the Vatican police force and diplomats close to the Holy See.
Still others have linked her disappearance to an attempt by international terrorists to force the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot Saint Pope John Paul II in 1981 in an assassination attempt.
None of these theories have ever been proven, and with the discovery of the bones, many are hopeful it will bring closure to the case.
A molar tooth is reportedly among the bones sent for testing as well as a part of the skull. The DNA will be compared to that of Orlandi and Gregori to determine whether or not there is a match.
In his comments to Corriere della Sera, Arcudi said the age estimate of 25-35 years old for the skeleton is based on a variety of factors, including “the structure of the bones, whose development in this case tells us the person very probably was 25 years old.”
Arcudi also cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that the bones belong to a woman, saying there can only be surety when the DNA results are in. On the finding of the new bones, Arcudi voiced hope that the fragments will help identify the person, whom he doubts will turn out to be Orlandi.
“In truth, I never had the impression that she was involved,” he said.
In comments to Corriere, the Orlandi family lawyer, Laura Sgro, said the finding of the new bones does not change anything for the family. “We don’t know if Emanuela is dead and, if she is dead, we don’t know when,” she said, adding that “we ae waiting for the DNA test.”
Orlandi’s brother, Pietro, told the paper he is anxious to get a confirmation on the gender, as there is still doubt if the bones in fact belong to a woman. However, Pietro said he is convinced that the person, whoever it is, was brought to the location after their death, which is “demonstrated by the fact that the skeleton is not complete and above all that it was found without clothes or jewelry.”