Why Armchair Detectives Think The Italian Mafia Kidnapped Emanuela Orlandi From Vatican Girl

Netflix has just released a four-part documentary series, "Vatican Girl," investigating the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi. The series includes some new bombshell revelations in the case and strongly suggests a tie with organized crime.

Orlandi was a resident of Vatican City, where her father worked in the Prefecture of the Papal Household. Then when she was 15 she disappeared. On June 22, she had gone to a flute lesson and called her sister after arriving there, but then was never heard from again (via The Guardian). Her disappearance occurred near an Opus Dei church, the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare, according to The Daily Beast.

By the next day, Orlandi was declared a missing person, and tips began coming in, but police couldn't locate her (via All That's Interesting). They never have –- Orlandi has never been found, alive or dead.

Over the years, there's been plenty of speculation as to what happened to her, even some theories involving the KGB and Turkish terrorism. According to The Guardian, Orlandi's older brother, Pietro Orlandi who has dedicated his life to searching for her, is convinced that Vatican officials know exactly what happened. They just aren't talking.

Confessions from mafia insiders

Whereas church officials have been tight-lipped, people with ties to the Italian mafia have started coming forward with information about Orlandi. In 2014, former mobster Vincenzo Calcara wrote to the Pope begging for an audience to divulge information related to the Orlandi case. Calcara was a member of Sicily's Cosa Nostra who later began working with the police (via BBC).

Three years earlier, in an interview in the Italian newspaper "La Stampa," another mobster-turned-informant admitted his gang, Banda della Magliana, had been behind Orlandi's kidnapping. He claimed the gang had lent money to the Vatican that hadn't been repaid, and they kidnapped Orlandi for ransom. Though he didn't reveal her fate, he strongly hinted she was dead. He said he hadn't come forward sooner because no one had ever asked him about the case.

Mancini alluded to the involvement of Enrico De Pedis, his gang's boss. The following year, 2012, De Pedis' grave was opened to see if there was any evidence in it tying him to Orlandi, but there wasn't (via The Guardian). Interestingly, before he was exhumed De Pedis was buried in the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare (pictured), which the Daily Beast reported was where Orlandi disappeared. After the exhumation, the former gangster's remains were cremated and thrown in the ocean (per The Guardian).

Why was Orlandi targeted?

"Vatican Girl" contains a brand-new revelation from a friend of Orlandi's: shortly before her disappearance, Orlandi was sexually molested inside the Vatican by someone "close to" Pope John Paul II. The friend, whose identity isn't revealed in the Netflix series, says she has been scared to tell the truth up until now, according to The Telegraph.

Investigative journalists familiar with the case think this may answer the question of why the Magliana gang chose to ransom Orlandi: they knew she had a secret that could be scandalous for the Church and thought they could use it to put pressure on Vatican officials to get their payout (via The Telegraph).

This is the tip of the iceberg in the Orlandi case: there have been so many more chapters, including anonymous bones, empty tombs, and the possibility that Orlandi was hidden in a London convent (via The Guardian). It's still unknown exactly what happened to the 15-year-old, but her brother insists, "The Vatican knows the truth" (via the Daily Beast).