Saturday 7 December 2019

Italians to excavate tomb linked to Vatican mystery

A murdered gangster's tomb is to be opened by Italian police in an attempt to unravel a 30 year old mystery worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Enrico De Pedis, leader of a murderous gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was gunned down aged just 38, by members of his outfit after they fell out.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, in 1983, believe De Pedis is linked to her kidnap and the body of the Vatican employee's daughter has never been found.

Last month the diocese of Rome, on orders from the Vatican, granted investigators permission to open up the tomb in the Sant'Apollinare basilica close to Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome.

This morning (mon) the church was ringed by police keeping back onlookers, as stonemasons arrived to open the tomb, accompanied by lawyers representing the De Pedis family and his widow.

It is not clear whether they expect to find Orlandi's remains in the tomb or documents that could shed light on her disappearance.

There were raised eyebrows when despite his criminal past church officials allowed De Pedis to be buried in the crypt of Sant'Apollinare.

At the time it was said the burial was given the go ahead because De Pedis had "repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity," including large donations to the Catholic Church.

De Pedis, whose name on the the €14000 tomb is spelt in diamonds, was buried in Sant'Apollinare church after he was gunned down in 1990 in the city's famous Campo De Fiori, a popular destination for tourists.

He and his gang controlled the lucrative drug market in Rome and were also rumoured to have a "free hand" because of their links with police and Italian secret service agents.

The disappearance of Orlandi reads like the roller coaster plot of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code thriller with a touch of The Godfather thrown in for good measure.

Twelve years ago a skull was found in the confessional box of a Rome church and tests were carried out on it to see if it was Orlandi after a mystery tip off but they proved negative.

In 2008 Sabrina Minardi, De Pedis girlfriend at the time of Orlandi's disappearance, sensationally claimed that now dead American monsignor Paul Marcinkus, the controversial chief of the Vatican bank, was behind the kidnap.

Monsignor Marcinkus used his status to avoid being questioned by police in the early 1980's probing the collapse of a Banco Ambrosiano which the Vatican had invested heavily in.

The collapse was linked to the murder of Roberto Calvi dubbed God's Banker because of the Vatican links and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.

His pockets filled with cash and stones and it was originally recorded as a suicide but police believe he was murdered by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering operation.

At the same time as Minardi made her claim a mystery caller to a missing person's programme on Italian TV said the riddle of Orlandi's kidnap would be solved "if De Pedis tomb was opened."

Following Minardi claims the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about American Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.

Also present this morning was Emanuela Orlandi's brother Pietro, who in the past has accused the vatican of not co-operating fully with the police and prosecutors.

He said:"This is a step forward in the investigation and I hope it leads to further transparency and collabartion. The opening of the tomb is not a arrival point but a departure point."

Officials said that the body once exhumed would be taken by undertakers to the mortuary at La Sapienza university in Rome where DNA tests would be carried out.

Sant Apollinare is a 7th Century church, which stands close to the site of the Roman baths built by the Emperor Nero - in another connection with Dan Brown it is used by Opus Dei the secret sect mentioned in the Da Vinci Code.

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