British boy missing for six years found in France

British boy missing for six years found in France
British boy missing for six years found in France

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — A 17-year-old British boy missing for six years has been found in France.

Alex Batty is at a young person's center in Toulouse and could be back in the UK within hours, the prosecutors' office in the city told the BBC.

Alex used a motorist's phone to message his grandmother in the UK, saying "I love you, I want to come home".

He had been missing since 2017, but was found on Wednesday morning by the motorist who spotted him walking through rain near Toulouse.

The boy disappeared after going on holiday with his mother and grandfather in Spain.

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

A police source earlier told BBC News the boy had been taken to a police station by the concerned motorist who had spotted him on a road in the foothills of the Pyrenees early on Wednesday morning.

The motorist, delivery driver Fabien Accidini, saw Alex walking along a road in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

"He explained that he had been walking for four days, that he set off from a place in the mountains, though he didn't say where," Accidini said.

"I typed his name into the internet and saw that he was being looked for," he said.

Accidini told local media Alex's plan had been to find a big city with an embassy to find assistance. Instead, Accidini contacted French authorities for help.

Alex used Accidini's account to contact his grandmother back in the UK.

He wrote: "Hello Grandma, it's me Alex. I'm in France Toulouse. I really hope that you receive this message. I love you, I want to come home."

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 she had now been in touch with 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 that year, the day they were expected to return to the UK.

British police were contacted via the UK embassy in Paris.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed it was 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." — BBC

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