Maelys de Araujo: French police arrest man over missing girl 'kidnapped' from Alpine wedding

Investigators say a ‘criminal possibility’ cannot be ruled out

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 31 August 2017 10:57
Maëlys de Araujo was last seen in the play room of a village hall at 3am on Sunday
Maëlys de Araujo was last seen in the play room of a village hall at 3am on Sunday

A man has been arrested by French police investigating the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl from a wedding in the French Alps.

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

Investigators previously said a “criminal possibility” could not be ruled out.

Divers of the French gendarmerie have been searching for evidence in a nearby pond near (AFP/Getty)

The 34-year-old man who was detained was a guest at the wedding, and had left during a time which “could correspond to Maëlys’s disappearance,” the local prosecutor, Dietlind Baudoin, said in a statement reported in the Le Dauphiné Libéré newspaper.

He had already been interviewed by police and had given an inconsistent account of his whereabouts on the night Maëlys went missing.

Police went on to search the man’s home, BFMTV reported.

Officers have launched a massive search for the girl (AFP/Getty)

Maëlys went missing at some point after 3am on Sunday morning.

She was at the wedding with her parents and older sister. About 250 guests have been interviewed by police.

Around 100 officers, including divers and dog handlers, launched a massive search for the girl, trawling through dense woodland and a nearby river.

Investigators now believe the girl may have been taken in a vehicle after 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 Maëlys left in a car, one way or another.”

Detectives said it was more likely with “each passing hour” Maëlys was kidnapped rather than involved in an accident or ran away.

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

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.

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