‘Kidnapped’ Alex Batty coming home in days to ‘relieved’ family - as he shares emotional first video call with gran

15 December 2023, 10:01 | Updated: 15 December 2023, 12:32

Alex Batty is coming back to the UK
Alex Batty is coming back to the UK. Picture: Handout/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Alex Batty will return to the UK "in the next few days", police have said, revealing that he has already had a phone call with his grandmother.

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British teen Alex, who is now 17, went missing in 2017 after going on a family holiday to Spain.

He was found in France yesterday after hiking through the Pyrenees mountains for days to escape a ‘spiritual’ commune where he had been living.

Greater Manchester Police said on Friday that he would return to his family in Oldham in "the next few days".

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Sykes said: "This is a huge moment for Alex, for his family, and for the community in Oldham."

He added that his officers are "working hard with the French authorities to bring Alex back as soon as possible," and that he expected to get him back "over the next few days".

Alex Batty went missing six years ago
Alex Batty went missing six years ago. Picture: PA

Alex is "getting well cared for by the French authorities at the moment," ACC Sykes said. "They're in Toulouse. We're in close liaison with them and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and our priority is to get him back to the UK and getting back to his family in Oldham as soon as possible."

ACC Sykes said that officers would be carrying out further checks on him to make sure that he is really Alex.

He told reporters: "The young man and Alex's grandmother spoke on a video call last night and whilst she is content that this is indeed Alex, we obviously have further checks to do when he returns to the United Kingdom."

He added: "Our main priority now is to see Alex returned home to his family in the UK and our investigation team are working around the clock with partner agencies and the French authorities to ensure they are all fully supported.

"Alex and his family remain our focus and we still have some work to do in establishing the full circumstances surrounding his disappearance and where he has been in all those years.

"I can only imagine the emotions they have experienced as a family throughout this ordeal."

Police are still trying to work out where exactly Alex has been over the past six years.

"We need to speak to Alex when it's right to speak to Alex to establish the full facts," ACC Sykes said.

"We have no detail of where he has been - lots of speculation - we want to speak to Alex."

Read more: Relief as Brit teen coming home after six years in remote mountain commune - but 'won't tell police where mum is'

Read more: 'I love you, I want to come home': Missing British boy's first words to grandma as he re-emerges after six years

Alex Batty, who is now 17, went missing in 2017 after going on a family holiday to Spain.
Alex Batty, who is now 17, went missing in 2017 after going on a family holiday to Spain. Picture: Greater Manchester Police

Alex was brought to safety when concerned motorist spotted him walking along in the rain in the foothills of the Pyrenees early on Wednesday morning.

Driver Fabien Accidini said Alex “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.”

“I typed his name into the internet and saw that he was being looked for.”

Mr Accidini told local media Alex’s plan was to find a big city with an embassy and seek help. Alex also used the driver’s Facebook to contact his grandmother 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."

Fabien Accidini, a student from Toulouse, was driving a delivery van when he found Alex walking by the road
Fabien Accidini, a student from Toulouse, was driving a delivery van when he found Alex walking by the road. Picture: Facebook

His grandmother, Susan Caruana told The Sun: “I am so happy. I have spoken to him and he is well," she said. "It is such a shock."

Alex is at a young person's centre in Toulouse.

His grandmother told The Times: “I spoke to him this afternoon and it is definitely him. I was speaking to a boy when he was with us and now I'm speaking to a man. I'm hoping he will return next week. I wish we didn't have the weekend upon us. It's quite unbelievable when you don't know if somebody's dead or alive.”

Mr Accidini said: “He was walking while the rain fell in heavy drops. The second time I passed him, I decided to offer to drop him off somewhere.

“He was quite tall and blond and dressed in black jeans, a white sweater and a backpack.

“He also carried a skateboard under his arm and a flashlight for lighting. His attitude gave me confidence. He ended up getting into my van.

“During the first few minutes he seemed a little shy.

“We tried to speak in French but I noticed he had not mastered the language. I decided to communicate in English.

“When I asked him his name he pretended his name was Zach, and then we continued chatting.

“We talked for over three hours! Very quickly he gave me his real identity - Alex Batty - before telling me his story.

Alex was taken to a 'spiritual commune' by his mother and grandfather six years ago
Alex was taken to a 'spiritual commune' by his mother and grandfather six years ago. Picture: PA

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“He said his mother kidnapped him when he was 12 years old. Since then he had lived in Spain in a luxury house with around ten people for three years.

“He arrived in France around 2021. In the middle of the weekend, he decided to leave his mother to join his family in England.

“He had been walking for more than four days.”

He said he really wanted to find his grandmother. He really missed his loved ones, Fabien said.

“He never had a means of communication. He sent a message to his grandmother from my Facebook.

“Alex wanted to go to a big city to find help and go to an embassy but finally I explained to him that the gendarmes could pick him up.”

He drove him to Revel near Toulouse where Alex told police who he was.

“Alex seemed very tired, he lay down on the ground.

“After that, the gendarmes questioned us. They were trying to find out if it was really him. When they had confirmation, he was taken into care to spend the night in a home.

“It's Alex Batty, 100 per cent. When I saw the photos published by the English media, I absolutely did not doubt his words.

“I think he's a little stressed about all this. I hope he will be able to reconnect with his previous life and maybe one day we will see each other again.”

Alex’s grandmother Susan said in 2018: “I got this message on Facebook and it was a YouTube video of the three of them.

“They all spoke on it and Melanie said the reasons why they had done what they had done.

“Alex said it was a million times better being with his mum and granddad. Obviously it hurt a bit but then my other concerns kicked in.

“The reason I believe they have done this is because basically my lifestyle, my belief systems, are not what they agree with - just simply living day to day, how normal people do.

“They didn't want him to go to school, they don't believe in mainstream school.”

French police said the teenager is "well and providing information", according to reports.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said officers in Oldham, Greater Manchester, were in contact with French authorities.

A spokesperson for GMP said: "This is a complex and long-running investigation, and we need to make further enquiries as well as putting appropriate safeguarding measures in place."

It is understood the teenager, who was 11 when he disappeared, was spotted by a member of the public near the French city of Toulouse on Wednesday and taken to a police station.

Speaking to The Sun newspaper after Alex was found, his grandmother Susan Caruana said: "I am so happy. I have spoken to him and he is well.

"He is currently with the authorities in France. It is such a shock."

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."

The youngster, from Fitton Hill in Oldham, went abroad with his mother Melanie Batty who does not have legal parental guardianship, and his grandfather David Batty on a pre-agreed trip in 2017.

He flew with them to Malaga Airport for a week-long stay in the Benahavis area near Marbella.

However, they did not return to England as expected on October 8 2017.

David and Melanie Batty remain wanted in connection with Alex's disappearance.

Despite international public appeals, Alex's legal guardian, Ms Caruana, had not seen him since he left the UK.

She previously said her daughter and ex-husband lived in a commune in Morocco with Alex in 2014 as part of an "alternative lifestyle", which she thought lay behind the youngster's disappearance.

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