ROME (The Blaze/AP) -- Coroners and medical technicians swarmed the crypt of a Roman basilica on Monday to exhume the body of a reputed mobster as part of an investigation into one of the Vatican's enduring mysteries: the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the teenage daughter of a Vatican employee.
The stench of sewage filled the courtyard next to Rome's Sant'Apollinare basilica where Enrico De Pedis was buried. Medical personnel in white pantsuits and masks milled about under a blue tent where his body was believed to have been taken for initial tests.
De Pedis, a member of Rome's Magliana mob, was killed in 1990. His one-time girlfriend has reportedly said he kidnapped Orlandi, and an anonymous caller in 2005 told a call-in television show that the answer to Orlandi's disappearance lay in his tomb.
Amid a new push to resolve the case, the Vatican said last month it had no objections to opening the tomb.
Emanuela Orlandi was 15 when she disappeared in 1983 after leaving her family's Vatican City apartment to go to a music lesson in Rome. Her father was a lay employee of the Holy See.
There had initially been speculation that her kidnapping was linked in some way to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, which had occurred two years earlier, and the jailing of the gunman, Ali Agca.
Doubts have also been cast on whether the Vatican itself had cooperated fully with the investigation. In a lengthy statement last month, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi insisted the Holy See had done everything possible to try to resolve the case.
Outside the basilica, Orlandi's brother Pietro Orlandi said the move to exhume the tomb was a step forward in the investigation into his sisters' disappearance.
"I think it's something very positive, both from the point of view of the Vatican and the prosecutors," he told reporters.
Speculation has long swirled around the location of De Pedis' tomb, since it's buried in a prominent church alongside prominent Catholics - an unusual final resting place for a reputed local mobster. Sant'Apollinare church is right next to the elegant Piazza Navona in Rome's historic center and is adjacent to the Opus Dei-run Pontifical Holy Cross University.
Last month, media reports questioned the mobster's burial location, claiming that the Vatican was paid a substantial amount of money to allow for de Padis' post-mortem placement near popes and cardinals. Here's what Business Insider published back on April 30:
In the most recent scandal involving the Vatican, the Church allegedly accepted a sum of one billion lire (about $660,000) in 1990 to bury the remains of mobster Enrico de Pedis in a basilica, next to various popes and cardinals, The Independent reports.
The paper cites a source from ANSA.it (though the report appears to be offline) who says that "despite initial reluctance" the then vicar-general of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, "in the face of such a conspicuous sum, gave his blessing" to the arrangement, despite the fact that de Pedis had been the head of the notorious Magliana gang. The money was reportedly used on missions and to restore the Basilica. The Vatican has refused to comment.
Regardless of whether this claim is true, it certainly adds intrigue to the overall case. Either way, the people continue to question why a criminal would be allowed such a prominent placement.
In this most recent investigation, among those in the courtyard speaking with medical personnel was the rector of the basilica, Msgr. Pedro Huidobro, who oddly enough was a coroner before being ordained a priest.