‘I’m glad to be home for Christmas’: Alex Batty breaks silence after escape from French commune

18 December 2023, 15:16 | Updated: 18 December 2023, 15:24

Alex went missing aged 11 when his mother took him on a pre-arranged trip to Spain with his grandfather
Alex went missing aged 11 when his mother took him on a pre-arranged trip to Spain with his grandfather. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Teenager Alex Batty, who has returned to the UK six years after he disappeared on a trip to Spain, has broken his silence after being reunited with his family.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking outside a relative’s home, Alex, now 17, said: “I’m glad to be home for Christmas.”

He arrived back in Oldham, Greater Manchester, on Saturday evening. He was found hiking by a roadside by a French driver who brought him to the authorities.

Alex was just 11 when he was reported missing when taken on holiday to Marbella, Spain with his mum Melanie Batty and his grandfather Davidbefore moving on to France.

French prosecutors said he was taken to live in a ‘spiritual community’.

Alex was just 11 when he was reported missing
Alex was just 11 when he was reported missing. Picture: Alamy

Alex landed in the UK on Saturday evening having been found walking across the Pyrenees, and police are considering whether to conduct a criminal investigation into his disappearance.

The family he had been staying with in a remote farmhouse in the French Pyrenees said Alex wanted to return to the UK to get documents so that he could study computer science at school, MailOnline reported.

They said Alex had been living on-and-off in their remote mountain farmhouse since autumn 2021, where his grandfather, David Batty, worked as a handyman in exchange for room and board for he and Alex.

Read more: Alex Batty's mother 'thought Covid-19 was created by the state,' friend says as Interpol joins search

Read more: Interpol joins hunt for Alex Batty's mother as teenager believes she went to Finland for Northern Lights

Owners of Gite de la Bastide, Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve, said Alex's mother, Melanie Batty, did not live at the property and during that time she stayed in "successive places of residence between Aude and Ariege" - around 50 kilometres north and 120 kilometres west of the farmhouse.

Alex was found hiking in the foothills of the Pyrenees in France on December 14
Alex was found hiking in the foothills of the Pyrenees in France on December 14. Picture: Getty

In a statement obtained by MailOnline, they said: "As far as we know, she (Ms Batty) was looking for a place to live in a community. La Bastide does not have this ambition. Nor are we a spiritual community."

The statement added: "As time went on, we saw him as part of our family and we think he appreciated the stability and security we represent for him.

"We encouraged him to learn French and study. In particular, we helped him find a school where he could be admitted without prior education. He showed a certain aptitude for computers.

"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 he would find a way to return to the UK on his own to get new [identity] papers and go back to school. To this end, he told us, he left on December 17 to join his mother."

They said they knew Alex as Zach and he arrived at the gite with his grandfather and mother, though Ms Batty was said to have never lived there.

During his stays, Alex had his own room, unlimited free internet access, and freedom to come and go as he pleased, they said - adding that he also liked to cook, participate in life at the gite and enjoyed cycling and visiting the beach.

They said he also got on well with the pair's children and ate dishes prepared by Ms Beauve and Mr Hambye's that included beef stew, chocolate cake and pasta bolognese.

Alex would reportedly accompany the couple to the nearby market to buy tuna sandwiches and meet his mother, with whom Ms Beauve and Mr Hambye said they had little contact.

The pair said the boy stayed for "some longer and shorter periods" and would also visit his mother.

The property is in Camps-sur-l'Agly, they said, a commune that had a population of 51 people in 2020, according to the French census.

Tourists, hikers, cyclists and horseback riders travelling in the area are said to visit the site.

Alex has returned to family in Greater Manchester, where he was living as a young boy before he disappeared, and police say is "where he wants to be".

His grandmother Susan Caruana previously said she "can't wait" to see him.