British teen missing for six years found in France

Alex Batty was just 11 when he was last seen.

Alex Batty was just 11 when he was last seen. Photo: AAP

A British teenager who went missing six years ago on a family holiday in Spain has been found in south-western France, French media reports.

Broadcasters BFMTV and TF1 cited the prosecutors’ office in Toulouse as saying that Alex Batty, who is now 17, had been found.

BFMTV said delivery driver Fabien Accidini saw the teenager looking lost and haggard by the side of a road and drove him to a police station.

TF1 said he was found on Wednesday.

Alex was apparently walking along the road in the rain, carrying a skateboard and a torch, in a town outside Toulouse. He reportedly used Accidini’s phone to message his grandmother in Britain.

“I love you, I want to come home,” it said in part.

In Britain, Greater Manchester police said officers from Batty’s hometown of Oldham were in contact with French authorities to establish the authenticity of the reports.

They said his mother, Melanie Batty, and his grandfather, David Batty, were still sought in connection with the teenager’s disappearance.

His grandmother Susan Caruana had custody of the then 11-year-old when he went with them on an agreed trip to Spain in 2017. It was supposed to last just over a week, but Batty vanished on the last day.

International searches and help from Spanish authorities had failed to find any trace of the trio.

“This is a complex and long-running investigation, and we need to make further inquiries as well as putting appropriate safeguarding measures in place,” British police said.

Samuel Vuelta-Simon, the Toulouse public prosecutor, has told multiple French and British outlets that the teenager is Batty. He said the teenager’s family, and photos, had confirmed the link and he should be back in Britain soon.

The whereabouts of the elder Battys is still unknown.

In 2019, Caruana told the BBC she believed her daughter had taken him to a commune to live an “alternative lifestyle” because she had a “different belief system”.

“They didn’t want him to go to school, they don’t believe in mainstream school,” she said.

Accidini has told police he saw Batty walking along a road in the foothills of the Pyrenees early on Wednesday.

“He explained that he had been walking for four days, that he set off from a place in the mountains, though he didn’t say where,” he said.

“I typed his name into the internet and saw that he was being looked for.”

Accidini told local media that Batty was trying to find a big city with an embassy to get help. The teenager used Accidini’s Facebook account to contact his grandmother in Britain.

“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,” he wrote.

Accidini said Batty told him he had no animosity towards his mother but missed loved ones in Britain and wanted to find his grandmother.

-with AAP

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