The unsolved disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi reads like something from a crime drama or a modern-day fantasy story. Orlandi was 15 in the summer of 1983 and enjoyed exploring Vatican City with her brother Pietro. She was the daughter of a prominent employee of the Vatican and felt quite at home in the close-knit religious center.
So, when Orlandi went missing on June 22, 1983, after attending a music lesson she took regularly, the list of places she could have gone was pretty small. The local community knew her well, and she had friends all over the city. Orlandi had called her sister after her class, excited, telling her that she’d received a job offer from Avon Cosmetics. However, when she failed to return home that night and was still missing the next day, her parents began to panic.
The day after she disappeared, Orlandi’s case was listed as a missing person’s case. Her parents called her teacher, who hadn’t seen her. They called the police and gave a detailed description of their daughter. A flurry of tips came in right after she disappeared, some suggesting she was seen entering a green BMW after her music class.
The BMW lead, tragically, was a dead-end, with investigators unable to find any vehicle matching that description.
Another tip came from an anonymous caller who claimed to have kidnapped the young girl and would release her if the Vatican released Mehmet Ali Agca. Agca had been arrested while trying to assassinate the Pope in 1981 and was being held in a Vatican jail. However, that call ended up being a hoax, with the lead fizzling out into a dead end.
Orlandi’s disappearance continues to haunt investigators, as it is unclear what could have possibly happened to her in the well-guarded city-state of the Vatican. Some have suggested that she could have been targeted by an organized crime syndicate who wanted to hold her for ransom and that she may have been accidentally killed in the process of her kidnapping.
Rumors have swirled that she could have been targeted by a human trafficking ring, with one proponent of this theory, Father Gabriele Amorth, having worked for the Vatican and been appointed by Pope John II himself. Father Amorth has stated that he believes the Vatican itself organized Orlandi’s kidnapping in order to force her into servitude, as part of a network involving the Holy See and Vatican diplomatic personnel.
There is no evidence to suggest that may have actually happened to Emanuela Orlandi. However, her eerie disappearance from the Vatican continues to disturb the imaginations of investigators and has spurred countless conspiracy theories about the Vatican itself.