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Fears missing French boy, 2, is dead and his body hidden after crash with 'car or tractor'
11 July 2023, 15:57 | Updated: 11 July 2023, 16:02
French police have said a missing French boy, 2, may be dead and that his killer could have hidden his body after accidentally hitting him with a tractor.
French police launched a hunt for the missing Émile, who went missing while on holiday with his grandparents at the weekend.
Émile was playing in the garden of a holiday home he and his grandparents’ were staying at on Saturday afternoon in the hamlet of Le Vernet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
"Either the body was concealed after an accident, or it was removed," a spokesperson for the police said.
"It is obvious that, after 48 hours, we have switched to another dimension. Hearings are underway.
"Of course, we still have hope of finding him alive, but elsewhere. If he was dead in the perimeter, the dogs would have smelled him.
"If he was alive and hidden, we would also have found him given the means that were deployed."
While his grandparents were busy preparing to head out for the day, Émile reportedly went to play in the garden, but by the time they returned to put him in the car, he had disappeared.
At 5:15pm local time, Émile’s grandparents informed the authorities of his disappearance and police, family, emergency service workers and local residents all began a desperate search mission for the boy.
The search party covered 5km in the search, but were unable to find him.
Now a helicopter, thermic camera drones, and sniffer dogs have been brought in to ramp up the search efforts.
The mayor of Le Vernet, François Balique, said on French television that Émile was a good walker for a boy his age.
“It’s a small village with 20 or so houses… we see everything. He could have gone some distance and perhaps got lost or was hiding,” he said.
The boy was spotted leaving the accommodation by two nearby people on Saturday but they said they soon “lost sight of him”.
Police have searched all homes in the village and urged anyone with information to come forward.
It is believed Émile, who is originally from Bouches-du-Rhône near Marseille, was wearing a yellow top, white shorts with a green pattern and hiking shoes when he vanished.
He is 90cm (almost 3ft) tall, with brown eyes and blonde hair, according to officials.
Police have ruled out abduction as the cause so far.
The manager of the Bistrot in Le Vernet Marie-Laure told La Provence: “We were preparing for the evening service, when we were told the child had gone missing.
"We all went to see what we could do to help as quickly as possible.
"We have looked in places where he could be, we have really looked everywhere for him."