British teenager Alex Batty returns to UK after being found in France six years after disappearance

16 December 2023, 21:37 | Updated: 18 December 2023, 15:35

Alex Batty has now returned to the UK.
Alex Batty has now returned to the UK. Picture: Handout
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

British teenager Alex Batty has now returned to the UK after being located in France six years following his disappearance.

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Alex Batty, who was found in France six years after going missing in 2017, has returned to the UK, Greater Manchester Police has said.

Alex met a family member at Toulouse airport before returning to the UK earlier on Saturday, police added.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle, of Greater Manchester Police, told reporters at the force's headquarters: "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.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle added: "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.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle speaking to the media about British teenager Alex Batty at Greater Manchester Police Force Headquarters in Manchester.
Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle speaking to the media about British teenager Alex Batty at Greater Manchester Police Force Headquarters in Manchester. Picture: Alamy

"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."

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

His grandmother, Susan Caruana has spent years waiting to be reunited with Alex.
His grandmother, Susan Caruana has spent years waiting to be reunited with Alex. Picture: Alamy

His grandmother, Susan Caruana has spent years waiting to be reunited with Alex. The two managed to talk over the phone earlier this week.

His grandmother and legal guardian, Ms Caruana previously said she "can't wait" to see him when he returns.

Ms Caruana, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, added on Friday: "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."

It is thought Alex had been living an "alternative" lifestyle with his mother, then 38, and grandfather, then 59, across Spain, Morocco and France while he was missing at 11-years-old.

French assistant public prosecutor Antoine Leroy said Alex did not describe the group in the mountains as a "sect" but was instead "talking of a spiritual community".

He continued: "The mother experienced a sort of fear of solar panels, so they were travelling from house to house with solar panels.

"They only used car-sharing, they didn't have their own vehicle."

Mr Leroy added: "What I'm describing is what happened in Morocco, in Spain and in France - it was always the same way of living."

Alex, who has been missing since 2017, left his mother and their 'spiritual community' in France's Pyrenees mountains after she told him they had to go to Finland.

Is is thought Alex had been living an "alternative" lifestyle with his mother and grandfather.
Is is thought Alex had been living an "alternative" lifestyle with his mother and grandfather. Picture: PA

After leaving his mother, Alex then spent four days walking before being found by a delivery driver. Police said Alex walked at night and slept during the day before he was found walking along in the rain in the foothills of the Pyrenees early on Wednesday morning.

His mother, Melanie Batty does not have parental guardianship of the now 17-year-old and her current location is unknown but Mr Leroy said: "It is possible that the mother at this time has in fact gone to Finland as she planned."

French prosecutors have confirmed that Alex's grandfather, David Batty, has died.

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