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Home » Delivery Driver Found Alex Batty On Unlit Mountain Road

Delivery Driver Found Alex Batty On Unlit Mountain Road

Media caption, Fabien Accidini, a French student working as a delivery man, says he found missing Alex Batty in a remote mountainous area in the Pyrenees

Six years after he disappeared with his mother and grandfather, Alex Batty was finally found by a student working as a delivery driver in the foothills of the Pyrenees in south-western France.

It was the middle of the night and Fabien Accidini was taking medicines to local pharmacies near the village of Chalabre.

Rain was falling when he drove past a young man walking at the side of an unlit, mountain road at about 03:00 on Wednesday.

The Toulouse student did not know it yet, but he had stumbled on a 17-year-old who had decided to abandon his mother’s life in an itinerant, spiritual commune in search of his grandmother in England.

When his mother decided she was moving to Finland, he realised it was time to leave.

He had already been walking in the Pyrenees for four days and four nights, sleeping by day and walking mainly by night to escape being seen. All he had was €100 in cash, no mobile phone and he was heading for Toulouse. He fed on anything he could find in fields and gardens.

The boy was blond, quite tall, wearing a white sweater and black jeans and was using a torch in the dark. He had a skateboard under his arm and a rucksack on his back, said Fabien Accidini, who is studying to be a chiropractor.

The student was intrigued. What was this young man doing in the middle of the night in the rain?

He drove back and offered the teenager a lift. The boy climbed in. To start with he called himself Zach and came across as quite shy,

“We tried to speak in French but I noticed his French wasn’t great and I decided to speak to him in English,” he told La Dépêche du Midi.

“We talked for more than three hours. He very quickly revealed his true identity, Alex Batty, then told me his story. He described how his mother had kidnapped him when he was 12.”

Image source, GMP

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

Melanie Batty and Alex’s grandfather David Batty had travelled from Greater Manchester for a week-long holiday in Marbella in September 2017.

French prosecutors have since filled in some of the gaps in his six-year odyssey, having talked to the teenager.

From the south of Spain, the trio headed for Morocco and spent two to three years pursuing a nomadic lifestyle, spending a few weeks here and a few weeks there.

They had already had a taste of that alternative existence during a visit to Morocco in 2014, according to Alex’s grandmother, Susan Caruana.

Alex Batty told the delivery driver that they headed north into France after living for a while in a commune of about 10 people in a luxurious house in Spain.

By now it was late 2020 or 2021, and he and his mother had joined a “slightly odd spiritual commune… far from a normal lifestyle” in the valleys of the Pyrenees.

What followed were two years of a strange, nomadic existence, mixing with numerous families from Canada, Spain and India.

“There was apparently a phobia around certain elements of life that meant the family would travel in a community of around 10 people,” said Toulouse deputy prosecutor Antoine Leroy.

They survived doing odd jobs and gardening, and going from place to place with little more than their home-grown vegetables and Melanie Batty’s prized solar panels.

“Through all these years this young man went through life carrying solar panels, deciding only to travel by car-sharing,” said the prosecutor, “always in places where there were big houses and several families coming in, going out, and never the same.”

Alex Batty made no mention of his grandfather to Fabien Accidini, and French prosecutors believe he may have died about six months ago.

Image source, Greater Manchester Police

He said he did not really know where he had been living, only that it was somewhere in the mountains on the French side of the Spanish border, in the regions of Ariège, Aude or the Eastern Pyrenees.

Fabien Accidini said he realised who his passenger was by searching for his name on the internet.

The teenager was thirsty. He had money but no phone, so he used the driver’s mobile to get in touch on Facebook with his grandmother, who is also his legal guardian.

His first words to her for six years were very brief: “Hello grandma it is me Alex i am in France Toulouse i really hope that you recieve [sic] this message i love you i want to come home.”

The student told French TV that the teenager felt relieved to have escaped: “He didn’t want to spend his whole life in that commune. He wanted to have a real life with a real future.”

When his mother announced she wanted to move to Finland, Alex decided the nomadic lifestyle was no longer for him, prosecutors said.

They realised he had had no formal schooling and little experience of technology, although he came across as composed and intelligent.

He never used the word cult, only spiritual community, and Fabien Accidini said there was no sense that he had been locked up in any way and was free to leave.

Alex Batty’s intended destination appeared to be an embassy in a big French city, but the student instead contacted the gendarmerie, the French military police.

He drove to Revel, just outside Carcassonne, and left him with local gendarmes who checked his identity and took him to Toulouse before he finally heads back to the UK this weekend.