Maelys de Araujo: Police fear French girl who went missing from wedding may have been kidnapped

Investigators said ‘criminal possibility’ cannot be ruled out after sniffer dogs lost their trail for the nine-year-old in a car park

Jeff Farrell
Wednesday 30 August 2017 11:26
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An appeal was launched for de Araujo since she went missing from a play room during the wedding in the early hours of the morning
An appeal was launched for de Araujo since she went missing from a play room during the wedding in the early hours of the morning

Kidnappers may have taken a nine-year-old girl who vanished from a wedding in the French Alps, police said.

Maelys de Araujo was last seen in a play room in the village hall in Chambery, a small town in the Pont-de-Beauvoisin region of southeastern France.

She disappeared at some point after 3am on Sunday morning.

Police launched a massive hunt after she was declared formally missing for 48 hours. They said a “criminal possibility" cannot be ruled out.

Guests initially searched for the girl at the hall after a DJ announced that she had disappeared from the wedding party, which she had attended with her parents and older sister.

One of the wedding guests, Grégoire, told Le Parisien newspaper: "The DJ for the evening announced on the microphone that a child had disappeared. Suddenly, everyone started searching, in the main hall and outside.

"It was anguish. To see the disappearance of a nine-year-old, that's not nothing. We initially thought she must be asleep in a corner after a game of hide-and-seek. After an hour, as we'd found nothing, the police were alerted."

After they alerted the police, around 100 officers, including divers and dog handlers, launched a massive search for the girl, trawling through dense woodland and a nearby river. But their search came up empty handed.

Investigators now believe de Araujo may have been taken in a vehicle after the three sniffer dogs tracking her scent, lost her trail in the car park outside the village hall in Pont-de-Beauvoisin.

Regional police chief Yves Marzin said: “One of the possible theories is that little Maelys left in a car, one way or another."

Detectives believe it is more likely with “each passing hour” that de Araujo was kidnapped than the possibility that she was involved in an accident or ran away.

“Given the time that has elapsed since the disappearance of young Maelys and given the resources that have been sadly deployed in vain to find her, the criminal possibility can no longer be ruled out,” local prosecutor Dietlind Baudoin told a news conference.

But she warned against “making hasty conclusions” in the search for the girl, whose family are believed to be from the nearby department of Jura.

Locals have helped in an appeal to find the missing girl, who has brown hair and hazel eyes, and have placed posters in the windows of bars and shops in Pont-de-Beauvoisin.

Police are questioning the 180 people who attended the wedding as well as people at two other parties held in the town over the weekend.

So far, 140 people out of a total of 250 have been questioned, according to Didier Plunian, who heads the region’s search and rescue unit.

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