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Everything we know about Alex Batty’s disappearance, his mother and why he fled 'spiritual community' in France
18 December 2023, 16:29
Alex Batty has returned to the UK, telling reporters he is "glad to be home for Christmas" after being missing for six years. Here is everything we know so far about his disappearance.
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Alex, now 17, flew home to the UK to be reunited with his grandmother in Oldham after six years away, having been taken out of the country by his mother and grandfather when he was 11.
He was found in the Pyrenees in the south of France, picked up by a driver and taken to French authorities.
From there his identity was verified and he was flown home to the UK on Saturday evening.
When did Alex Batty go missing?
The British boy, originally from Oldham, was 11 years old when he went missing while travelling with his family in Marbella, Spain, in October 2017.
He 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".
Who found Alex Batty?
A medical student called Fabien Accidin found the teenager.
He told the regional newspaper La Depeche du Midi he had been driving in the Aude area to deliver medicine when he came across Alex, who was walking in the rain early on Wednesday.
"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 said.
"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 then sent his grandmother, and legal guardian, Susan Caruana a message on Facebook: "Hello grandma it is me, Alex."
"I am in France, Toulouse, I really hope that you receive this message, I love you, I want to come home."
Where was Alex Batty staying and who with?
Mr Accidin said that Alex told him that he had lived in a luxury house in Spain for three years with ten other people, before leaving for France in 2021.
Now a French couple called Ingrid Beauve and Fred Hambye have said that Alex and his grandfather David Batty lived with them for two years in their farmhouse for free, in exchange for doing jobs around the house.
They said that Alex set off from the house to get identity papers so he could enrol in school.
Ingrid and Fred said they knew him as Zach, which tallies with what the driver had also said. David went by the name Peter, they said.
His mother, Melanie Batty, did not stay with them but went off to join spiritual communities. Alex would visit her sometimes, they said.
The French couple said they took Alex on trips to the beach and to a river and treated him as a member of their family, they told Mail Online. He liked cooking and helping in the garden.
Why did Alex Batty flee the 'spiritual community'?
In 2018, Alex’s grandmother and legal guardian, Susan Caruana told the BBC she believed Alex's mother and grandfather had taken him to live in a spiritual community in Morocco.
Assistant Public Prosecutor Antoine Leroy said Alex knew the life he was having with his mother "had to stop" after she announced intentions to move to Finland.
According to La Depeche, Alex, now 17, had been staying in France between the Ariege and Aude regions with a "travelling spiritual community" sleeping in caravans, lodges and tents pitched in the wilderness in recent weeks.
Mr Accidini said Alex told him that his mother was "a little crazy" and "in some bizarre delirium when she was talking about spirituality".
But he added that she had never imprisoned him and he could "leave when he wanted".
"He had no animosity towards his mother but he really wanted to find his grandmother. He really missed his loved ones," the driver explained.
What did Alex Batty’s mother and grandfather believe?
Alex’s grandmother said that when she separated from her husband, David, he began to act strangely.
She added: "He became very spiritual. He didn’t believe in working any more and so he fell behind with his mortgage and bills and the bailiffs were called in."
Melanie Batty became caught up with his new lifestyle and she got involved with a cult.
Expat Susie Harrison who knows Melanie from a local market in the Pyrenees, told MailOnline: “Rose is a conspiracy theorist. She believes that Covid-19 was not real, that it was created by the state to control people.
“She really wanted to set up a spiritual community here in the south of France… a special group of like-minded people.”
Ms Caruana added that Alex’s mother "didn’t believe in school".
Where is Alex Batty’s mother and grandfather?
While Greater Manchester Police is yet to establish whether it will open a criminal investigation, it is understood Interpol is looking for Ms Batty.
Alex's mother 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."
"The boy [Alex] claims that his mother has gone to Finland to see the Northern Lights, so the search for her is continuing across Europe," an investigation source told The Sun.
"This does not mean that the search has stopped in France – she has been placed here regularly over the years, and may well still be hiding in the countryside.
French prosecutors have confirmed that Alex's grandfather, David Batty, has died.