New potential murder victim in Vatican skeleton probe

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Vatican City (AFP) - The Vatican has opened its archives to detectives hunting for clues to the identity of a skeleton discovered in its embassy in Rome, as another potential murder victim emerged Friday.

Italian police have begun interviewing those who have served as custodians of the site down the years, after builders restoring a floor in the janitor's lodge uncovered human remains earlier this week.

They are also trawling through documents to trace the firms brought in to work on the lodge over the decades.

Since the grisly find on Monday, Italian media have been rife with speculation that the bones could shed light on the fate of one or possibly two teenagers who went missing in the 1980s.

But on Friday rumours spread that the body in Villa Giorgina could be the wife of a custodian who lived there in the 1960s.

The marriage was an unhappy one, with neighbours frequently hearing fights, and when the woman suddenly disappeared the custodian said she had left him -- a story now reportedly being questioned by detectives.

The Corriere della Sera daily said the floor was last restored in the 1980s, meaning any body already buried there would likely have been spotted by builders.

Forensic scientists hoping to extract DNA from the remains will also be studying whether the bones could have been moved after death.

The pelvis and skull are small, but a first examination of the jaw bone suggests the victim had wisdom teeth, leading investigators to believe the remains are female but not a child, media reported.

- Gangster's friend -

The last custodian, Anna Mascia, who lived there from 2003 until her retirement a few months ago, said she did refurbish the house when she moved in but the floor was merely covered, not stripped back, according to Il Messaggero daily.

Relatives of two girls who disappeared 35 years ago have said they hope the discovery in the grounds of Villa Giorgina, with its large garden sheltered by high walls and armed guards, will bring them answers.

Emanuela Orlandi was the daughter of a member of the Vatican's police, and was last seen on June 22, 1983 when leaving a music class in Rome.

Theories have circulated that the then 15-year-old was kidnapped to force the release from prison of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope Jean Paul II in 1981.

Another claim was that she was taken by an organised crime gang to put pressure on Vatican officials to recover a loan.

Investigators Friday were looking into the possible involvement of a friend of a local crime boss.

Giuseppe Scimone, who died some 12 years ago, lived down the road from the embassy and was allied with gangster Enrico De Pedis.

De Pedis, head of the Magliana gang, has long been a suspect in Orlandi's kidnapping.

- 'Buried in cement' -

His lover told police he had kidnapped and killed the girl, and she had seen the body buried in a sack under cement.

She alleged Scimone's involvement, according to Il Fatto Quotidiano daily.

The snatching was allegedly an attempting to force the Vatican to repay a loan lost in the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano.

The Holy See was the main shareholder in the bank, which had been accused of laundering money for the Sicilian mafia.

It collapsed in 1982 and its chairman Roberto Calvi -- dubbed "God's Banker" -- was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in a suspected murder by mobsters.

Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist for the diocese of Rome, said Orlandi was a sexual victim who was snatched for erotic parties involving clergy and staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.

A Mafia mobster who turned police informant said the same, but no proof was ever found, the Stampa daily reported.

Mirella Gregori, then 16, disappeared exactly 40 days before Orlandi. She told her mother she was going to meet a school friend and never returned.

"It is incredible to think that in 1983 we lived just there, only 10 minutes away on foot from the embassy," her sister, Maria Antonietta, told Italian media.

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