British boy who vanished on Costa del Sol holiday six years ago found alive after 'escaping rural community' in France

14 December 2023, 14:15 | Updated: 15 December 2023, 07:43

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

By Kieran Kelly

A British boy who vanished while on holiday on the Costa del Sol six years ago has been found alive and well in France six years later.

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Alex Batty, originally from Oldham, was 11 years old when he went missing while travelling with his family in Marbella, Spain, in October 2017.

The young boy was with his mum Melanie Batty at the time, as well as his grandad David. They were not allowed to be with Alex at the time due to 'domestic difficulties'.

Police eventually launched an investigation after the family did not return from Marbella.

According to La Depeche du Midi, Alex had been staying in France between Ariege and Aude regions with a ‘travelling spiritual community’ sleeping in caravans, lodges and tents pitched in the wilderness.

He is now with social services in France after 'escaping a spiritual rural community' in the Pyrenees.

Alex Batty went missing six years ago
Alex Batty went missing six years ago. Picture: PA
Alex Batty's mum
Alex Batty's mum. Picture: PA

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.”

Meanwhile, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are supporting a British national in France and are in contact with local authorities."

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At the time of his disappearance, Alex's grandmother and official guardian Susan Caruana suggested they had opted for an "alternative lifestyle" elsewhere.

"They didn't want [Alex] to go to school, they don't believe in mainstream school," she said in 2017.

In 2018, Mrs Caurana told the BBC she believed Alex's mum and granddad had taken him to live in a spiritual community in Morocco, which can be reached from Malaga by boat.

Alex Batty's grandmother said they had chosen an 'alternative lifestyle'
Alex Batty's grandmother said they had chosen an 'alternative lifestyle'. Picture: PA
He is believed to have escaped a rural community in the Pyrenees
He is believed to have escaped a rural community in the Pyrenees. Picture: PA

But the authorities in France have said that Alex, now 17, has turned up in Revel, near Toulouse.

It is understood Alex escaped a rural community living in the Pyrenees and was picked up by a driver.

He had spent days hiking through the mountains and villages, including Quillan, in the upper Aude Valley.

Reports say the driver was a chiropractic student from Toulouse, who spotted Alex at 2am on Wednesday and allowed him to message his relieved grandmother to say he wanted to come home and loved her.

Fabien told La Depeche: "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."

Alex's grandmother 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.

"I don't know where his mum is. It is great news. I am just waiting for him to come home. I am thrilled."

Police launched an investigation into his disappearance after he went missing in 2017 and that remains open.

In 2019, GMP's Detective Constable Declan O’Reilly said: “The safest place for Alex is back home with his grandmother and we need the public’s help to find and return him to her.

"She is absolutely desperate for his safe return and when I spoke with her recently she said if there is one thing she could say to Alex it would be for him to please get in touch as his disappearance has left her broken.

"Anyone who has any information, no matter how big or small you think it may be, please come forward so that we can try to reunite a missing boy with his devastated grandmother.”

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