Alex Batty to be flown to UK today as it is revealed missing boy tried to enrol in French school

Alex told a delivery driver who spotted the exhausted teenager: ‘I need a future’

Barney Davis
Saturday 16 December 2023 15:10 GMT
Comments
French delivery driver who found British teenager Alex Batty recalls taking him to police

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Alex Batty could have been found last month after British and French authorities failed to alert each other after he tried to enrol at a local school without any identity cards, it has been alleged.

The boy, now 17, has text his grandmother “I love you. I want to come home” ahead of an emotional return to Oldham after spending the last six years living in a “nomadic spiritual community” in the Pyrenees mountains with his mother.

He is due to land in the UK on Saturday as local French news outlet La Depeche reported that he had tried to “enrol in a school” in the town of Quillan.

He could not provide any identity papers, so teachers alerted the police to the British teenager, who spoke little French in November.

“The gendarmes tried to contact the English authorities,” said an investigating source, but “there was a hiccup which did not allow the report to be followed up”.

The paper claimed authorities failed to connect the dots to Alex to the initial missing report from when he was allegedly abducted by his mother and grandfather from a Spanish holiday in 2017.

They added: “Collaboration [between the French and the British] did not make it possible to establish a link between the presence of Alex Batty in Quillan and his disappearance notice issued seven years earlier in England.”

It came as his overjoyed grandmother said it was “like a dream” speaking to him on the phone for the first time since he was abducted by his mother and grandfather and raised in a remote French village.

His delighted grandmother and legal guardian Susan Caruana, 68, spoke about the emotional video call with Alex, saying: “It’s amazing. It’s an incredible story.

Alex Batty was found near Toulouse on Wednesday after walking for four days in the Pyrenees (Greater Manchester Police/PA)
Alex Batty was found near Toulouse on Wednesday after walking for four days in the Pyrenees (Greater Manchester Police/PA) (PA Media)

“It’s unbelievable after all these years. I’m in shock. I can’t believe it. I have spoken to him and he’s well, that’s all I can say for now. I’m desperate to see him over the weekend but I don’t know what’s happening.

“I’m waiting for the authorities to let me know.

“It’s breathtaking, and I’m over the moon. I just can’t believe it. It was absolutely like a dream when I heard his voice. It was unbelievable.”

Susan Caruana is hoping to be reunited with Alex this weekend
Susan Caruana is hoping to be reunited with Alex this weekend (Supplied)

Alex reportedly told a delivery driver who spotted the exhausted teen walking along a rural road on Wednesday: “I need a future”.

The teenager escaped by walking for four days, moving at night and sleeping during the day, to avoid detection.

However, on Wednesday at 2am, Fabien Accidini picked him up before taking him to police in Revel, near Toulouse.

The driver told media that Batty was carrying his belongings including a skateboard and a lamp when he stopped to help.

Mr Accidini, a chiropractic student, added: “He explained that he had been walking for four days, that he set off from a place in the mountains, though he didn’t say where. I typed his name into the internet and saw that he was being looked for.”

Alex Batty
Alex Batty (Supplied)

Public prosecutors claim that Alex experienced no physical violence during his years in the mountains and found no evidence he was living in a cult.

His family fear the impact of being away from home for so long.

Alex seen here with his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty in a video they issued saying they were not returning home
Alex seen here with his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty in a video they issued saying they were not returning home (Supplied)

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Sykes, of Greater Manchester Police, said he was “relieved and overjoyed” and was working with the French authorities to bring the teenager home.

He said: “UK authorities are buying a ticket and will arrange for travel from Bordeaux. He will leave tomorrow or at the very latest the day after.”

Toulouse deputy prosecutor Antoine Leroy said the youth had spent the past two years in different areas of southern France, living in “spiritual communities” with his mother, but not in a sect.

“He said he was never locked up,” Leroy told a news conference, adding that the teenager said he had decided to leave his mother when he heard she was planning to move to Finland.

The teenager told authorities his grandfather had died six months beforehand.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in