Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Fred Hambye and Ingrid Beauve said they considered Alex to be part of their family (Picture: PA)

British teenager Alex Batty wanted to return to the UK so he could go back to school, according to the owners of a French gite where he stayed before his reappearance on Wednesday.

Fred Hambye and Ingrid Beauve took in the boy and his grandfather David Batty in autumn 2021 and hosted them for almost two years before Alex, who was reported missing in 2017, set off for home earlier this year.

In a statement released on Sunday, the couple explained that they had known the 17-year-old as ‘Zach’, and that during his stay at the Gite de la Bastide he had become ‘part of our family’.

They said they rarely had contact with his mother Melanie, who is still being sought by police in Europe, and she did not live with Alex and David at the gite.

However, Fred and Ingrid added that they would regularly take Alex to the local market to buy a Bagnat au Thon (tuna sandwich) and meet his mum.

They said there were also periods when he would leave the gite, located in the small mountain village of Camps-sur-l’Agly, to stay with Melanie in various areas of the south of France, including Aude and Ariège.

The statement, released in French and English, says Fred and Ingrid ‘encouraged [Alex] to learn French and study’.

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The D16 road where Alex Batty was picked up by Fabien Accidini in Chalabre, France (Picture: Reuters)

It continues: ‘He showed a certain aptitude for computers.

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‘He was eager to go to school and get back to a normal life and for that, he needed his ID, which he told us he no longer had.

‘When we learned that he did not have an ID, we offered to drive him to the British Consulate.

‘He told us that he would find a way to return to the UK on his own to get new papers and go back to school.’

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Alex was found walking through the pouring rain alone in a town near Toulouse in southern France on Wednesday, when he was picked up by a driver named Fabien Accidini.

Last night, he returned to the UK for the first time in six years and was reunited with other members of his family.

His grandmother and legal guardian Susan Caruana previously said she ‘can’t wait’ to see him when he returns.

Fred and Ingrid said they only discovered Alex’s ‘real name and full story’ at the beginning of this week through media reports.

Their statement concludes: ‘We wish him the best of luck.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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