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Mystery Bones In Tomb Of Murdered Gangster
Unidentified bones have been found in the tomb of a murdered Italian gangster which was opened by police in an attempt to unravel a 29-year-old mystery.
Enrico De Pedis, leader of a gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was aged 38 when he was gunned down 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 the capital.
The church was surrounded by police keeping back onlookers, as stonemasons arrived to open the tomb, accompanied by lawyers representing the De Pedis family and his widow.
A team of forensic scientists wearing overalls and masks was on hand as the tomb was opened, with sources saying a ''foul stench'' filled the air of the crypt. Outside a large crowd of onlookers gathered, mixing with priests from the next-door college.
Officials said De Pedis' body was ''well preserved'' and he was recognised by detectives and he was still dressed in a dark blue suit and black tie.
His body was inside the last of three coffins and the forensic team lifted his arm out of the casket to take fingerprints and these were a positive match for De Pedis.
But in a bizarre twist, the scene then revealed another mystery as a box of bones was also found inside the tomb which officials said were ''not those of De Pedis'' and they were taken away for examination.
Officials said several boxes of bones were also recovered from elsewhere within the crypt and they were also taken away for identification but they explained they could be from 200 or more years ago.
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 £12,000 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 rollercoaster plot of a Dan Brown 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 1980s probing the collapse of 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 connection, and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.
His pockets were 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 Ms 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 Ms Minardi's claims, the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.
Emanuela Orlandi's brother Pietro, who in the past has accused the Vatican of not co-operating fully with the police and prosecutors, was at the scene and said: ''I never expected my sister's remains to be found in the coffin.
"Personally, I also doubt that the Magliana gang had anything to do with my sister's disappearance. The people who authorised her kidnapping were others, how else do you explain a 29-year silence from the institutions?
"Mine is just an act of love for my sister. She suffered an injustice because they did not allow her to live her life. I just hope that with the opening of the tomb there is transparency and collaboration between the investigating authorities and the Vatican."
Maurilio Prioreschi, a lawyer representing the De Pedis family, said: "His wife Carla has told me that once this operation is over she wishes that her husband's remains are cremated or buried elsewhere.
"The body will be removed sometime within the next 48 hours. His body was taken from the tomb and put in a tent set up nearby.
"Fingerprints taken have returned a positive match for Enrico De Pedis. We now hope that this matter is closed. Despite all the pain, Carla is happy that by opening the coffin this episode will now end.
"It has been very painful for her and De Pedis could well have been the most evil man in the world but at the same time he is dead and like all the dead he deserves some respect."
Officials said that, once exhumed, the body would be taken by undertakers to the mortuary at La Sapienza university in Rome, where further DNA tests would be carried out to confirm his identity.
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.