Six years after vanishing with his mother and his grandfather, a 17-year-old British boy who has reappeared in France is expected to return home in the coming days, the police said on Friday, adding that his family was “massively relieved” at his discovery.
The boy, Alex Batty, who had not been seen since he was 11, was found this week near Toulouse in southern France, and is believed to have been living in the Pyrenees as part of a commune or spiritual community.
On Friday, the British police refused to comment on the recent whereabouts of the teenager, his mother or grandfather, who were last seen before they left for a vacation in Spain in 2017, saying that they wanted to speak to Alex to establish the facts.
“We are relieved and overjoyed to receive the news from the French authorities that they believe Alex Batty has been found safe and well,” said Chris Sykes, an assistant chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police. “This is a huge moment for Alex, for his family and for the community in Oldham,” he added, referring to the boy’s hometown, which is close to Manchester.
The 17-year-old, who is in the care of the French authorities, talked with his legal guardian, his grandmother Susan Caruana, who lives in Oldham, on Thursday via a video call.
“She has a whole host of emotions and feelings,” Mr. Sykes said, adding that she was “content” that the person she had spoken to was her grandson, but that the police still had further checks to complete when he returns to Britain. That is expected to happen “over the next few days,” he added.
In 2018, Ms. Caruana said the boy and his relatives disappeared after disagreements about how he should be cared for, and that his mother, Melanie Batty, and his grandfather David Batty had sought an alternative lifestyle with the boy after flying to Spain for a vacation. The police want to question them.
Alex was found by a delivery driver, Fabien Accidini, who saw him walking in the rain at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday in Chalabre and stopped to give him a ride, according to an account he gave to La Dépêche, a local newspaper.
It reported that the teenager had decided last week to leave the group with which he was living.
“He was walking in the rain, with a skateboard under his arm and a flashlight. I offered him a ride. He wanted to go to a big city,” Mr. Accidini told the paper.
Mr. Accidini said that Alex was thirsty but in good health and had told him that he had been walking for four days, that he had spent some time in Spain and some time in France, and that he had been living in a spiritual community.