ROME May 14 Investigators attempting to resolve
one of Italy's most enduring mysteries on Monday opened the tomb
of a mobster in a Rome basilica for clues to the disappearance
of a Vatican schoolgirl nearly 30 years ago.
Enrico "Renatino" De Pedis, the feared head of Rome's
Magliana gang which terrorised the capital in the 1980s, has
been linked to the disappearance in 1983 of Emanuela Orlandi,
the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee.
Forensic officials, lawyers and members of the Orlandi
family witnessed the exhumation on Monday. Lawyers said the body
found was that of a man who fitted De Pedis' description.
In a twist worthy of a Dan Brown novel, near the tomb in the
Sant' Apollinare basilica, investigators also found other bones,
lawyer Lorenzo Radogna said.
He added that the were likely old bones since the church had
been used for burials for centuries.
Police and forensic experts will be checking the crypt
further and examining De Pedis' body and coffin as well as the
other bones to see if they can shed light on the Orlandi
In 2005, an anonymous caller to a television talk show said
the secret to Orlandi's kidnap was buried along with De Pedis. A
woman who had a relationship with the mobster also claimed that
he was involved in the Orlandi disappearance.
The Orlandi family then began legal proceedings to open De
Pedis' tomb to look for clues.
The entire episode so embarrassed the Vatican that last
month its spokesman issued a lengthy statement rejecting
accusations by the Orlandi family that it had not fully
cooperated with Italian detectives investigating the
During a spell in jail, De Pedis had been befriended by the
prison chaplain, a monsignor who also happened to be the rector
of the basilica.
When De Pedis was gunned down in 1990 by a rival on a Rome
street, his family asked if he could be buried in a crypt in the
basilica because they feared his grave would be desecrated by
gang rivals if he were buried in a public cemetery.
Church officials first said no but later changed their minds
after the mobster's family made a contribution of one billion
lire, the equivalent of about 500,000 euros today, according to
Italian media reports.
The disappearance of Orlandi was initially linked to a
possible attempt by unknown persons to win freedom for Mehmet
Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981
and was then serving a life sentence in an Italian jail.
Dan Brown fans might also be titillated by the fact that the
basilica where the crypt was opened is right next door to a
university run by Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic group that
figured prominently in The Da Vinci Code.
Furthermore, both the basilica and the university are across
the street from Piazza Navona, the square where in another Brown
novel, Angels and Demons, the assassin tried to drown a cardinal
in a fountain.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Rosalind Russell)