How Alex Batty's mother 'went from law student to cult member

How Alex Batty’s mother ‘went from law student to ‘chaotic’ cult member who left her young son in Morocco to live in Bali with a new boyfriend and sent her mother a £500,000 ‘bill’ for ‘her use of’ Alex’

  • Alex Batty was just 11 when he was taken away from his legal guardian 
  • He was left behind in Morocco by his mum, who fled to Bali with her boyfriend
  • Melanie was a law student who couldn’t hold a job down , her mother said

A newly resurfaced interview with the grandmother of a British boy who went missing for six years has revealed that his mother went from being a law student to a ‘chaotic’ cult member in a few short years. 

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017.

His grandmother and legal guardian, Susan Caruana, said she believed her daughter and ex-husband David had taken him abroad to live an ‘alternative lifestyle’. Reports have suggested he was living in ‘a kind of itinerant commune’.

On Wednesday, he was found by a French student after a four-day hike after fleeing the ‘community’ located in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, in an effort to reach his grandmother in England.

Alex, now 17, is refusing to reveal where he has been living for the last six years, or where his mum, who he described as ‘a little crazy’, is hiding out. 

In 2018, Susan revealed that Melanie was a rebellious teenager, partying hard, drinking, and Susan and her husband, Dave, struggled to cope with her. 

She went to college and got a law degree but couldn’t hold down a job. In 2006, she gave birth to Alex. 

Melanie (pictured) was unable to hold a job down after getting a law degree, and led a hippie-ish lifestyle in a commune

Alex (picture) was taken away from his grandmother, then his legal guardian, in 2017 

Susan said she was heartbroken after Melanie told her she was taking Alex away from her

David (pictured) and Susan separated after they were unable to deal with their daughter’s erratic behaviour

Susan said: ‘I lived nearby, and I saw Alex every day, I looked after him a lot and we had such a close bond. I loaned loads of money to Melanie, to care for Alex, but she just blew the lot.’

READ MORE: British police begin hunt for Alex Batty’s mother and grandfather and say the boy spoke to his overjoyed grandmother last night as detectives fly out to search French region known for its hippy camps

Susan and Dave by now had separated, and Dave was receiving therapy for health issues. Afterwards, he changed dramatically.

Susan, from Oldham, said: ‘Dave went through therapy and afterwards he began acting strangely. He became very spiritual. He didn’t believe in working any more and so he fell behind with his mortgage and bills and the bailiffs were called in.

‘Melanie became caught up with his new lifestyle too and she got involved with a cult. She began travelling abroad, with Alex. Their lives were chaotic. Melanie didn’t believe in school or education. I was really worried about them.’

In 2014, Melanie took Alex, aged eight, to live in a commune in Morocco. Dave soon followed.

Susan said: ‘I was devastated. I was so close to Alex and I missed him terribly. From Facebook I could see that the conditions there were terrible.

‘Then, Melanie went off to live in Bali with a new boyfriend, leaving Alex behind. I was panic-stricken and I paid for a flight home for him.’

Alex began living with Susan. Melanie remained in Bali and contacted Alex intermittently on Skype.

Susan said: ‘I got Alex into a local school in Oldham and he was really settled and happy. He was so pleased to have a home.’

Susan applied to the courts for guardianship of Alex, but Melanie refused to recognise the court action.

Susan said: ‘She returned home – and I paid for her flight. She refused to co-operate with the courts, but she sent me an invoice for £500,000 for use of her ‘property’ – Alex.

Alex decided flee the ‘spiritual community’ and his mother and grandfather in the rural foothills of the French Pyrenees (file image)

Fabien Accidini (pictured), a chiropractic student from Toulouse, was driving along a road in the mountainous region of Aude when he spotted Alex walking along in pouring rain

Alex said he had been trekking across the French Pyrenees for four days before Fabien spotted him – and one of the first things Alex did was message his grandmother from the student’s phone to say that he loves her and wants to come home

‘I was horrified. It was so upsetting.’

READ MORE: Missing British boy Alex Batty who has not been seen since his mother and grandfather ‘abducted him’ in Spain six years ago aged 11 is found alive and well in France after fleeing ‘spiritual community’, officials say

Susan was awarded guardianship of Alex in 2016. Melanie refused to attend court for the ruling.

Susan said: ‘I was happy for Melanie to see Alex, I wanted to them to have contact. But her lifestyle was still chaotic.’

In October 2017, Melanie asked if she could take Alex away on holiday to Marbella.

Susan said: ‘I was very torn. I was worried about her taking him. But Alex was desperate to go on holiday with his mum. I didn’t want to let him down.

‘I’d had to cancel a holiday earlier in the year because I’d been in hospital, so it seemed very cruel to deny him the opportunity.

‘Dave said he would go along too. I trusted him. I never thought he would lie to me or compromise Alex’s safety.

‘During the holiday, Alex called me, and said he was on the beach. But in the background, I heard his mum shout: Switch the phone off. No more contact.’

‘My heart dropped. I was frantic.’

Melanie then sent a video message, saying Alex would not be returning, because she wanted him to follow her lifestyle.

Susan said: ‘I was heartbroken. I blamed myself because I had trusted them with him.

‘On the video, Alex said it was a million times better being with his mum and granddad. It hurt me a bit, but I knew he was just being a kid, enjoying the freedom.’

He reached out to her for the first time in six years in an emotional Facebook message which he sent using the phone of a French student who found him wandering Toulouse. 

By some stroke of luck, Fabien Accidini, a chiropractic student from Toulouse, was driving along a road while delivering medicines in the mountainous region of Aude when he spotted Alex walking along in pouring rain at around 2am on Wednesday.

A freezing and exhausted Alex, who was carrying a skateboard, gratefully accepted Fabien’s offer of a lift and eventually told him of his extraordinary bid to leave southern France and get home to his family in England.

‘Hello grandma is me Alex i am in France Toulouse i really hope that you recieve this message,’ 17-year-old Alex Batty told his legal guardian in the desperate text, with the heartbreaking sign off ‘i love you i want to come home’.

Susan told The Times: ‘I spoke to him this afternoon and it is definitely him. I was speaking to a boy when he was with us and now I’m speaking to a man. I’m hoping he will return next week. I wish we didn’t have the weekend upon us. It’s quite unbelievable when you don’t know if somebody’s dead or alive.’

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