ROME — The case of an Italian teenager who disappeared in 1993 has returned to the spotlight after decomposed remains believed to be hers were discovered in the church where she was last seen, police said Thursday.
At the same time, an unsolved 2002 murder in Britain has resurfaced, with British police linking their case with the disappearance of the teen.
Elisa Claps vanished from her hometown of Potenza on Sept. 12, 1993 at the age of 16.
She was last seen in the Most Holy Trinity church in downtown Potenza with an acquaintance, Danilo Restivo, who later admitted that he had spent about 10 minutes in the church with her before leaving.
Restivo has denied wrongdoing. He remains under investigation in the case, his lawyer Mario Marinelli said Thursday. He said his client was living in Britain and was calm.
Police in Dorset, meanwhile, linked the disappearance of Claps with the slaying of a British woman, Heather Barnett, whose mutilated body was found by her two children in the bathroom of her home in Bournemouth in November, 2002.
“Strands of cut hair, not belonging to her, were placed in her right hand,” the police statement said. Dorset police linked the two cases in a statement issued Thursday.
Potenza police spokesman Giuseppe Persano said that Italian authorities had remained in contact with their British counterparts concerning Restivo.
In announcing the discovery of Claps’ remains in Potenza, the police noted that four British detectives had travelled to Potenza and other Italian cities last October to interview and take DNA samples from the hair of 15 women who had reported having their hair cut in unusual or suspicious circumstances.
“We are continuing our normal contact with the Italian police and other authorities — and will continue to assist them if and when asked,” the Dorset police said.
In Potenza, the decomposed remains believed to belong to Claps were discovered in a corner of a hard-to-reach rooftop garret on the Most Holy Trinity church on Wednesday by maintenance workers who had climbed to the roof to fix a leak.
DNA tests will be performed to determine if the remains belong to Claps, Potenza police spokesman Giuseppe Persano said.
Claps’ brother Gildo Claps said Thursday that the glasses, a shirt and shoes discovered alongside the remains belonged to his sister. Speaking outside the church, he said the family will now redouble efforts to find justice.
“She was there before everyone’s eyes for 17 years, exactly where everyone thought she was: in the last place where she had been seen,” Gildo Claps said.
Associated Press reporter Jill Lawless contributed to this report from London.