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Alex Batty 'wanted to have a normal life and go on to study computer science', French holiday home pair reveals
18 December 2023, 05:39 | Updated: 18 December 2023, 09:02
Alex Batty lived in a holiday cottage in France for months at a time as his mother searched for a place to live - and he hoped to get a British ID so he could learn computer science, it has emerged.
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The missing British boy, who has reappeared after going missing in 2017, stayed with Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve at their guesthouse for periods of time from autumn 2021.
He had vanished after allegedly being kidnapped by his mother, Melanie, and grandfather, David, during a holiday to Spain.
Now, Mr Hambye and Ms Beauve said Alex stayed at their cottage, Gite de la Bastide in Camps-sur-l'Agly in the Aude region, where they knew him as "Zach".
He spent months doing jobs in the house and garden to earn his keep while his mother tried to find a place to live in a spiritual community.
The French pair wrote on Facebook: "You may have met Zach and found that he was part of the family, that he had plans to study computer science and work in Canada.
"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.
"To this end, he told us, he left on December 10 to join his mother.
"We reiterated to him that he would always be welcome and that if needed, we were there to help him.
"The rest, as well as his real name and full story, we discovered in the Press at the beginning of this week. We wish him the best of luck."
Alex, now 17, re-emerged last week as a delivery driver came across him in the Aude region.
He told the driver he had hiked for four days over the Pyrenees, having left his mother who he said wanted to go to Finland.
He has since been brought to the UK and is living with Susan Caruana, 68, his grandmother. He previously lived with her in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
Mr Hambye and Ms Beauve said he had stayed with them for several months at a time, then would join his mother "in her successive places of residence between the Aude and Ariege".
"As far as we know she was looking for a place to live in a community. La Bastide doesn't have this ambition. Nor are we a spiritual community," the said.
In time, he was seen as "part of our family and we think he appreciated the stability and security we represent", they added.
Greater Manchester Police is yet to establish whether it will open a criminal investigation into his disappearance.
Officers plan to interview Alex to find out what happened in the six years he went missing.