‘A little crazy’: Details emerge of where missing British boy was for six years

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A British boy who went missing six years ago was taken to live in a “spiritual commune” by his mother and grandfather who had “shunned modern life”.

Alex Batty, who was 11 when he vanished while on holiday in Spain, said he had been living a nomadic lifestyle in a remote area of the Pyrenees.

Alex Batty went missing in 2017 during a pre-arranged family holiday.Credit: Greater Manchester Police

He finally decided to leave the commune after his grandfather died six months ago, and his mother, whom he described as “a little crazy”, announced she planned to move to Finland.

Alex’s grandmother, Susan Caruana, who has appealed repeatedly over the years for her grandson’s return, and is his legal guardian, said she was “over the moon” he had finally been found.

He is expected to return to the UK in the next few days.

Alex, now 17, disappeared in September 2017 after going on holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie Batty and his grandfather David Batty.

He was last seen at the Port of Malaga on October 8 that year, the day the trio were expected to return to the UK.

Antoine Leroy, the Toulouse assistant public prosecutor, said that since then, the group had been living a “nomadic life” in a constantly changing community of about 10 people.

“Alex didn’t have a mobile phone. That seems to reflect the philosophy of people like his mother who, it seems, was rather inclined not to be in favour of anything very modern,” he said.

The teenager was discovered near Toulouse on Wednesday after spending four days, with little food or water, hiking across the Pyrenees at night.

Fabien Acidini, the delivery driver who discovered Alex Batty.Credit: Sky News

Leroy said the group, which was constantly on the move, survived by carrying solar panels from camp to camp and setting up a vegetable garden wherever they went.

He added: “Alex mentioned the fact that they did ‘work on the ego’ and meditation, the non-existence of the real world, reincarnation.”

He said the group was not a sect and that Alex was never locked up or confined.

Leroy said although Alex had not attended school during his time abroad, he was an “intelligent young man”.

It is understood that Alex had asked in November whether he could go to school in Quillan, near to where he was living, but as he had no identity card French police contacted their British counterparts.

However, no link was made with the fact that he had allegedly been abducted, according to French newspaper Le Dépêche.

Citing police sources, it said that the entire nomadic community had decided to travel to Finland to watch the Northern Lights, but Alex said he didn’t want to go. He left on foot alone in the direction of Toulouse, hoping to reach the UK.

He was discovered on Wednesday and taken to a police station in the village of Revel by Fabien Accidini, a chiropody student.

Accidini said: “He didn’t have regrets [about leaving the community] … he just wanted to live a normal life, to see his grandmother again and to have a normal future, that’s the word he used.”

Alex used Accidini’s Facebook account to contact his grandmother back in the UK.

He wrote: “Hello Grandma, it’s me Alex. I’m in France, Toulouse. I really hope that you receive this message. I love you, I want to come home.”

Speaking from the doorstep of her semi-detached home in Oldham, Susan Caruana said she could not wait to be reunited with him.

She said: “It’s amazing. It’s an incredible story. It’s unbelievable after all these years. I’m in shock. It’s breathtaking, and I’m over the moon.”

She added: “I cannot begin to express my relief and happiness that Alex has been found safe and well.

“The main thing is that he’s safe, after what would be an overwhelming experience for anyone, not least a child.”

Caruana said she did not feel able to say if Alex’s mum had “brainwashed” the boy, adding: “I don’t want to comment about that.”

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Sykes, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “The French authorities have been looking after Alex really, really well.

“Our real concern is how we bring Alex back to the UK in a safe way and make sure we look after his wellbeing.”

Sykes said that for the time being the focus was on Alex’s wellbeing, but added that his mother was “part of the investigation”.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are supporting a British national in France and are in contact with local authorities.”

The Telegraph, London

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