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Police launch homicide investigation after bones found at Vatican-owned property

Italian soldiers outside the Vatican Nunciature-Embassy to Italy in Rome on the morning of October 31 2018 (Getty)

The Italian dailies carried sensational headlines this morning, above reports of a gruesome find: human bone fragments discovered on Monday afternoon during the course of remodelling work inside a locale annexed to the Apostolic Nunciature to Italy.

A statement from the Press Office of the Holy See on Tuesday evening acknowledged the discovery. The statement said the Corps of Gendarmes – the Vatican police – were called to the scene and promptly alerted officials in the Holy See, who immediately passed news of the find to Italian authorities.

Rome’s chief magistrate, Giuseppe Pignatone, ordered police forensic experts and the mobile squad to investigate. The Italian authorities are treating the matter as a homicide investigation, and the Holy See has turned the remains over to Italian authorities. Attempts to identify the remains by cranial, dental and DNA comparison are underway.

The early speculation in the local papers was that the remains could belong to one of two young girls who disappeared 35 years ago (in separate cases): Mirella Georgi and Emanuela Orlandi. Neither case has ever been solved.

The 15-year-old Orlandi’s disappearance has held Romans’ attention through the decades owing to the fact that Orlandi lived with her family in Vatican City: her father worked at the Vatican Bank (officially styled the Institute for the Works of Religion).

Reporting for La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, Andrea Tornielli says the dig in the basement of the building – which belongs to the Holy See and enjoys extraterritorial status – had reached a depth of roughly twenty inches when workers came upon the remains. The Villa Giorgina, as the building is known, was built at the beginning of the 20th century. Its foundation does not cover the entire perimeter of the building, but only the corner areas. This means the remains may have been there when the structure went up.