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Home ยป Alex Batty: Teen From Oldham Missing For Six Years Found In France

Alex Batty: Teen From Oldham Missing For Six Years Found In France

Image source, Greater Manchester Police

By Hugh Schofield in Paris & Jacqueline Howard in London

BBC News

A 17-year-old British boy from Oldham who went missing in Spain in 2017 has been found in France, authorities say.

Alex Batty was found in the town of Revel, east of Toulouse, early on Wednesday morning.

The prosecutor’s office in Toulouse told the BBC the family had confirmed the teenager’s identity.

Alex had been missing for six years after going on holiday with his mother and grandfather.

The mother and grandfather, who do not have parental guardianship of Alex, have not been located but remain wanted in connection with his disappearance.

Alex is currently being looked after by social services, awaiting the arrival of British police and consular staff who are on their way to bring him back to England.

A police source told BBC News that the boy had been taken to a police station by a concerned motorist who had spotted him walking along a road in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

The boy said he had been in France for two years, the police source said, adding that he bore a resemblance to the last known picture of Alex.

He had been living in the remote Pyrenean valleys, travelling about from place to place in a kind of itinerant commune.

The area in the foothills of the Pyrenees is known for attracting people in search of alternative lifestyles.

Alex won’t say where his mother is or exactly where he had been living in the Pyrenees, the prosecutors office told the BBC.

His grandmother – and legal guardian – Susan Caruana told The Sun newspaper on Thursday she had been able to speak to Alex.

“I am so happy. I have spoken to him and he is well,” she said. “It is such a shock.”

Ms Caruana told the BBC in 2018 that she believed Alex’s mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty had taken him to live with a spiritual community in Morocco.

She said at the time they were seeking an alternative lifestyle and did not want Alex to go to school.

Melanie and David Batty left Greater Manchester with Alex for a pre-agreed, week-long holiday to Marbella in Spain on 30 September 2017.

He was last seen at the Port of Malaga on 8 October, the day they were expected to return.

Image source, GMP

Image caption, Alex Batty, centre, disappeared with his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty

A local journalist told the BBC a delivery driver had spotted the boy walking along the road carrying a backpack and skateboard and, feeling sorry for him, picked him up.

“They spent three hours together in the car, and the boy told his story,” Remi Buhagiar of La Depeche newspaper said.

“He said he’d been living in a kind of itinerant commune. He wasn’t under any compulsion but he said he found his mother a bit weird and decided he didn’t want this kind of life, and that he wanted to set his own path – that’s why he decided to leave,” he added.

Alex had been walking through the hills for days, Mr Buhagiar explained.

“He asked the driver if he could borrow his phone and sent a message via Facebook to his grandmother, saying he was fine and wanted to see her. He was not sure if she got the message,” he said.

The driver, speaking to La Depeche, said it was raining heavily when he drove past Alex late at night. On the way back, he passed Alex again and made the decision to pull over and speak to the boy.

Fabien Accidini told the newspaper he had given Alex water as he had been walking for several days and was thirsty.

He said Alex was shy at first, but after establishing English as Alex’s native language, he said the pair spoke for some three hours.

He added that Alex’s plan had been to find a big city with an embassy to find assistance, but Mr Accidini contacted French authorities for help.

British police have been contacted via the UK embassy in Paris.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed it is in touch with French authorities to put “safeguarding measures in place”.

“This is a complex and long-running investigation, and we need to make further enquiries as well as putting appropriate safeguarding measures in place,” a spokesperson said.

In a statement, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), said: “We are supporting a British national in France and are in contact with local authorities.”

Additional reporting by Chris Bockman in Toulouse