Not going to school for six years, instead seeing new countries and living abroad. This is what happened to Alex Batty from England. It's completely unclear whether he actually liked it. Now the now 17-year-old obviously found the unsettled nomadic life with his mother and grandfather too much - and he reported himself to the police in southern France. The boy has now returned to his grandmother near Manchester, the police announced on Sunday night.
But the story is far from over. Rather, it seems like a puzzle. Why didn't the authorities find the child for years? It also caused astonishment that the case had recently been increasingly forgotten publicly. The Greater Manchester Police are not yet releasing any details. First they wanted to talk to Alex in detail and calmly, they simply said.
Revel, December 14th: A delivery truck driver reports to a police station in southern France. The 26-year-old had picked up a teenager in the pouring rain at night, somewhere between Camon and Chalabre, a 20-minute drive from the nearest town. The teenager said he had been kidnapped by his mother and had now escaped. "He said she was a little crazy," the media quoted the man as saying.
Hard story to untangle
It is a story that is sometimes difficult to unravel and is now coming to light. He apparently didn't know that the boy had been searched for six years. The French alerted the British - who confirmed the case. Soon afterwards, his step-grandfather and British police officers met the teenager in Toulouse and flew him back home.
The case provides insights into a difficult family situation, which was researched in detail by the Sunday Times. Who Alex's biological father is is unknown, mother Melanie did not talk about it. Grandfather David lost his job in 2013 for health reasons and the divorce from his wife Susan was difficult. When bailiffs tried to confiscate his house, he fought back - with the help of Melanie, who was studying law.
The daughter is intelligent but prone to conspiracy theories, according to an unnamed friend of David who spoke to the Times. Thanks to Facebook groups, David and Melanie are increasingly finding themselves in an environment that rejects government intervention such as taxes, mortgage payments or TV fees. In Morocco they lived with Alex temporarily in a commune that was trying to develop "fuelless" energy sources.
No return from family vacation
When Melanie moved on to Bali with her new boyfriend, grandmother Susan brought her grandson home. Alex settled in in England - until his mother and grandfather showed up again and took him on a family holiday to Spain in 2017.
Alex was actually supposed to be back with his grandma, who had received custody, on October 8, 2017. But instead of bringing the then eleven-year-old child back as promised, the now 38-year-old woman and her father ran away with the boy. From then on, Alex seemed to have been swallowed up by the earth, as the British media reported. Even extensive police investigations, an international appeal and the support of the Spanish authorities did not lead to the trio being tracked down.
The trio's exact route is unknown
The exact route is unknown, but the trio probably lived again first in Morocco, then in Spain and finally in the Pyrenees in southern France. According to British media reports, it was surrounded by a wandering spiritual community. It is not uncommon to meet people who follow alternative lifestyles, the Times quoted a resident in the Pyrenees town of Quillan, where Alex is said to have recently tried unsuccessfully to enroll in school. Grandmother Susan Caruana speaks of a cult.
She now appeared relieved. "I spoke to him last night and it was so good to hear his voice and see him," she said after a video call Thursday evening. "I can't wait to be reunited with him." The police only want to decide whether to start a criminal investigation after a detailed conversation with Alex. The boy appeared healthy and intelligent, although he had not been to school for six years, French officials reported immediately after the case became known.
It is still unclear where mother and grandfather are. Residents in the village of La Bastide, where Grandpa David is said to have last lived in a gîte - a kind of holiday home - contradicted information from Great Britain that the 59-year-old died six months ago. And has Melanie traveled to Finland in the meantime? Apparently she wanted to see the Northern Lights there - but Alex didn't want to go and therefore ran away, the French police said.