December 19, 2023
Alex Batty was 11 years old when he went missing while on vacation in Malaga, Spain, with his mother and grandfather in 2017. The British child was considered abducted by his mother, Melanie Batty, 43, who did not have custody of him at the time. He was, and still is, officially in the custody of his grandmother, Susan Caruana, who told media outlets that she feared Alex’s mother and grandfather, David Batty, 64, may have abducted Alex and taken him out of the United Kingdom in order to live off the grid. Susan said they were looking to live a more “alternative lifestyle.”
Unable to contact her grandson, Susan reported him missing to police.
Alex was supposed to return home to the U.K. on October 08, 2017, but didn’t and was subsequently missing for six years.
Fabien Accidini, a student working as a delivery driver, spotted Batty walking alone in the rain in a rural part of Chalabre, a commune in the Aude department in southern France, and stopped to ask him if he needed a ride anywhere.
Accidini said the teenager was wearing a backpack and carrying a skateboard under his arm and a flashlight in his hand. He explained that he had been walking for four nights and was headed to the British Consulate in Toulouse.
According to Accidini, while the pair conversed during the car ride, Alex revealed he was "Kidnapped by his mother five or six years ago”. He said that from there, Alex was taken to Spain "where he lived with his mother for three years, and after he was in France, where he lived for two years." "He told me he was in a spiritual community." Accidini said that Alex had money and water and was not hungry. "He was physically fine." "He wanted to live a normal life and see his grandmother again. He wanted a normal future."
Batty helped Accidini make the last of his deliveries that night before being later dropped off.
Alex Batty, now 17, told the Greater Manchester Police that he had been staying off-and-on at a rural Gîte in Camps-sur-l'Agly, southern France, and that he had been sleeping in the day and travelling at night so he would not be seen.
His grandfather, he said, had been working as a handyman at the Gîte de la Bastide, a traditional farmhouse, where the pair were given a room and food. They arrived in the fall of 2021, and according to the owners of the property, Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve, who knew Alex as "Zach," said he was like “part of the family” and socialised with their children a lot.
Following the grandfather’s recent death, Alex stayed on at Gîte de la Bastide and did some chores around the home and property. He liked to garden and cook and often went on trips to the beach with the other children. They said Alex seemed to enjoy the stability that staying with them offered, and that they encouraged him to learn French and study, but Alex longed for a normal life and to return to his home country.
They deny the rumours that their property is that of a sect.
Hambye and Beauve, who are a couple, said Alex had his own room in their home, as well as internet access, and was allowed to leave whenever he wanted. They said his mother did not live at the property as she was looking for a more “spiritual” community to join, adding that whenever Melanie Batty found somewhere to stay, usually between Aude and Ariege, Alex would sometimes join her.
According to Alex, his mother had expressed that she wanted to move them to Finland, while he wanted to return to the United Kingdom. He wanted more stability and to go back to school and lead a “normal life.” Alex is originally from Oldham in Greater Manchester.
Alex Batty was formally identified by Greater Manchester Police, working together with French authorities, on December 14, 2023. Further confirmations will be made once Batty is on home soil, but French authorities say the story matches up with that of the missing boy, and that he is a visual match to childhood pictures of Batty.
The GMP are working with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office to acquire the travel documents the teenager needs to return home to the UK.
In a public statement, Assistant Chief Constable, Chris Sykes, said: “I think I speak on behalf of the whole of Greater Manchester Police when I say we were relieved and overjoyed to receive news from the French Authorities that they believe Alex Batty had been located safe and well, more than 6 years after his disappearance.
His grandmother is thrilled with the news and cannot wait to be reunited with her grandson after several long years.
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