Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Now 17, Alex was just 11 when he vanished with mother Melanie and grandfather David on what was supposed to have been a two-week trip to Spain (Picture: PA)

British teenager Alex Batty has landed back in the UK, six years after going missing with his mum and grandad during a family holiday.

Now 17, he was just 11 when he vanished with mother Melanie and grandfather David on what was supposed to have been a two-week trip to Spain in September 2017.

He was found by chiropody student Fabien Accidini walking alone in the rain along a remote rural road near Toulouse in the south-west of France in the early hours on Wednesday.

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

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle, of Greater Manchester Police, told reporters at the force’s headquarters tonight: ‘It gives me great pleasure to say Alex has now made his safe return back to the UK after six years.

‘Earlier today, Alex met with a family member alongside Greater Manchester Police officers at Toulouse airport before heading back to the UK.

‘This moment was undoubtedly huge for him and his loved ones, and we are glad that they have been able to see each other again after all this time.’

Police have yet to establish whether a criminal investigation will be opened into the disappearance of Alex Batty.

The senior officer added that the UK is ‘where he (Alex) wants to be’ and described his return as ‘fantastic news’.

It is thought Alex had been living an ‘alternative’ lifestyle with the two relatives across Spain, Morocco and France while missing (Picture: PA)

Mr Boyle went on: ‘Speaking with him [Alex] at a pace that feels comfortable to him will ultimately determine how this case is progressed, and whether there is a criminal investigation to ensue.

‘Our continued focus is supporting Alex and his family, in partnership with other local agencies – to ensure that they are safe, their wellbeing is looked after, and his re-integration with society is as easy as possible.

‘We are yet to fully establish the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, but no matter what, we understand that this may be an overwhelming process.

‘He may now be six years older than when he went missing, but he is still a young person.’

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle speaking to the media about British teenager Alex Batty at Greater Manchester Police Force Headquarters (Picture: PA)

It is thought Alex had been living an ‘alternative’ lifestyle with the two relatives across Spain, Morocco and France while missing.

The teen told French investigators they moved from house to house, carrying their own solar panels, growing their own food and living with other families.

‘It was a nomadic life,’ police officer Lea Chambonnière told reporters.

French prosecutor Antoine Leroy said he couldn’t employ the term ‘sect’ to describe how the three of them lived, adding: ‘The term he uses himself is “spiritual community”.’

He added: ‘He was never locked up. But he was always obliged to live in these conditions.’

Mr Leroy said Alex told them he knew that life ‘had to stop’ when his mum announced intentions to move to Finland.

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He described how, once Alex decided it was time to go his own way, he walked for four nights — resting during the days — and fed himself with ‘different things that he found in fields or gardens’.

The teen told police he had been aiming for Toulouse, hoping authorities there would return him to the UK to be reunited with his grandmother Susan Caruana, who lives in Oldham.

On Friday, she said in a statement issued through Greater Manchester Police: ‘I cannot begin to express my relief and happiness that Alex has been found safe and well.

‘I spoke with him last night and it was so good to hear his voice and see his face again. I can’t wait to see him when we’re reunited.

‘The main thing is that he’s safe, after what would be an overwhelming experience for anyone, not least a child.

‘I would ask that our family are given privacy as we welcome Alex back, so we can make this process as comforting as possible.’

Alex will be reunited with his grandmother and legal guardian Susan Caruana (Picture: PA)

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On Friday, French prosecutors said the teenager’s mother, who is wanted in connection with his disappearance, may be in Finland while his grandfather has died.

Addressing the whereabouts of Alex’s mother and grandfather, Mr Leroy said: ‘It is possible that the mother at this time has in fact gone to Finland, as she planned.

‘The grandfather, who has always been with his daughter and grandson, is said to have died approximately six months ago.’

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Alex was described as ‘tired’ but ‘in good health’ after being checked over by French officials and seemed ‘intelligent’ even though he had not attended school for six years.

The prosecutor also said the boy did not appear to have been subjected to any physical violence.

Greater Manchester Police said it will not comment ‘at this time’ on what Alex was doing while abroad, as the force has not yet received a statement from the teenager.

Mr Boyle said: ‘We are aware the French authorities disclosed detailed information yesterday during their press conference relating to what Alex may have been doing and where he has been over his years missing.

‘Greater Manchester Police are yet to obtain any formal statement from Alex and therefore we cannot comment at this time.’

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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