Thousands of bones discovered in Vatican as forensics team searches for Emanuela Orlandi

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(CBS) — Saturday’s search took a forensics team underneath Vatican City, through a trap-door and into so-called “ossuaries” – a sort of sacred storage deposit for bones. Thousands of bones and bone fragments – many more than expected and some believed to be quite ancient – were discovered and collected as Federica Orlandi, the sister of a missing woman, looked on.

“It was intense,” Orlandi said, “thinking those could be the bones of my sister.”

Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of an employee at the Vatican, was just 15 years old when she went missing on her way to a music lesson back in 1983.

This is just the latest twist in an unsolved mystery that has stretched on for 36 years. It is a saga that’s sparked conspiracy theories and speculation. Fingers have been pointed just about everywhere: sex rings, assassination plots, the CIA and KGB.

Just last week, the graves of two 19th century princesses were opened after the family received an anonymous tip that Emanuela may have been buried there. No remains were found at all, which set off Saturday’s search.

Over the years, demonstrators have pushed for answers and the Orlandi family has not given up. A forensic scientist working for them was present today, as was family lawyer Laura Sgro.

A Vatican statement released Saturday failed to note the number of remains discovered under the Teutonic College. Forensic work will continue on July 27.

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