Tigger warning: mentions of human trafficking, extremism, kidnapping, and murder.
We cannot tell the story of Emanuela Orlandi’s Disappearance without discussing the MANY theories that came from it. The story has left a massive imprint on the Italian consciousness, even decades after. Because there are so many theories, and I only have so much time to turn this in, we will be discussing just four of the most popular types of theories.
The first theory, and the least interesting, is that Emanuela simply ran away. There is some evidence to back up this claim: the first two phone calls the Orlandi family got in July 1983. These calls described a woman matching Emanuela’s description selling makeup not far from the Vatican. Both callers reported that she was now being called “Barbarella,” that she was open about being a runaway but planned to go back home in September, and they each gave a personal piece of information about Emanuela the media did not know yet.
The second set of theories, circle around the calls that the Orlandi family started receiving on July 5th, 1983. These particular calls demanded the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who made an assassination attempted agains the Pope, in exchange for the return of Emanuela. Some believe that the Grey Wolves, a Turkish extremist group who claimed to be responsible for the 1981 assassination attempt of Pope John Paul the 2nd, were indeed responsible for Emanuela’s and another Italian teen’s disappearances. It is not surprising that many Italians believe this theory, far-right and far-left extremist groups killing political leaders was a common occurrence in Italy in the 60s through the 80s, so extremist groups kidnapping civilians was not an insane thought.
Some, like Chief Vatican Exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth, say that Emanuela may have been a piece of a larger attempt of police, politicians, and the Vatican kidnapping young girls and forcing them into sexual slavery. This theory has especially gained traction in the 21st century, as more cases of sexual abuse within the church are in the public conscious.
Our final theory is about Mafia involvement. It is rumored that Banda della Magliana, a criminal organization based in Rome, was loaned money by the Vatican and they tried to use Emanuela as a hostage to get the money back. Banda della Magliana was recognized as one of Italy’s most powerful gangs in the late 70s through early 80s; they were tied to drug dealing, money laundering, multiple assassinations, and terrorist attacks so–similar to the extremist group theory–it was not hard for the Italian people to fathom the gang coordinating a kidnapping.
Emanuela’s case is incredibly multifaceted, so it only makes sense that the theories about it would be just the same. But behind the theories, we must remember that Emanuela deserves respect and justice. Intrigue about the case is valid, but glamorization is not.
In my next article I will discuss my own opinion on Emanuela’s case, so stay updated!