Hunt for Alex Batty's mother may shift to Finland

Hunt for Alex Batty’s mother may shift to Finland after ‘abducted’ son reveals she ‘went to see the Northern Lights’ – as cops continue search in France

The search for Alex Batty’s mother continued today ‘across Europe’ with insiders claiming the teenager believes his mother ‘has gone to Finland to see the Northern Lights’.

The 17-year-old was finally reunited with his grandmother in Oldham, Greater Manchester last night more than six years after he disappeared on holiday in Malaga after being allegedly kidnapped by his mother Melanie, 48, and grandfather David. 

Alex was found walking along a deserted country road in the middle of night on Wednesday after escaping a ‘nomadic’ commune he had been living in at the foot of the French Pyrenees.

French cops said the boy made the decision to flee the ‘spiritual community’ after his mother made plans to travel to the Nordic country following the death of his grandfather six months ago. 

Insiders said if she had escaped to Finland, she would ‘absolutely have needed a passport’ which could making tracing her journey ‘relatively easy’. 

The whereabouts of Alex’s mother Melanie Batty, now 48, are currently unknown 

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

Insiders claim the teenager believes his mother ‘has gone to Finland to see the Northern Lights’ (file photo of Northern lights in Finland) 

‘The boy claims that his mother has gone to Finland to see the Northern Lights, so the search for her is continuing across Europe,’ an investigating source in Toulouse said today.

READ HERE:  Alex Batty’s life in French farmhouse revealed: ‘Abducted’ British boy stayed with couple who took him under their wing while his mother lived in ‘spiritual communities’ – but left for UK to get new ID papers so he could go to school

‘This does not mean that the search has stopped in France – she has been placed here regularly over the years, and may well still be hiding in the countryside. All kinds of information is circulating, and a lot of it does not add up.’

Focusing on Ms Batty, the source said: ‘If she did travel to Finland, then she would absolutely have needed a passport. This would make tracing her journey relatively easy.’

While French authorities told a press conference on Friday that Alex’s grandfather David had died, neighbours living in the hamlet of La Bastide, about an hour’s drive south of Carcassonne, said they saw him less than ten days ago.

They said David – known as Peter, was seen mowing the lawn of the Gite de la Bastide. No record of his death has been filed.

Former Met Police Detective Kevin Hurley speculated that the mother had gone off to ‘India or somewhere else to probably live in another commune’.

He spoke on GB News where he questioned whether police trying to investigate the whereabouts of Melanie was ‘in the public interest’ to use ‘all the effort, money and resources it will require’. 

The search area in France alone is a huge swathe of Pyrenean countryside that is hugely popular with spiritual communities, sects, cults and hippies. 

Alex flew to Malaga in September 2017 before being taken to a ‘spiritual community’ in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Investigators believe Alex escaped the rural community in southern France and spent days trekking across the French Pyrenees before being picked up by a trucker who took him to a police station in Revel, near Toulouse

Alex Batty disappeared with his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty in 2017

Alex’s grandmother Susan Caruana said: ‘I cannot begin to express my relief and happiness that Alex has been found’ (file image)

The French source added: ‘The British are now leading the investigation, and they of course will be interviewing Alex at length. His mother is crucial to the enquiry, and she needs to be found.’ 

Greater Manchester Police confirmed last night that it was waiting to speak to Alex about the ordeal.

Detectives are preparing to speak to the teen ‘at a pace that feels comfortable with him’ to determine ‘how he may have been doing, and where he has been, over his years missing’. 

Officers had travelled to Toulouse in France to assist Alex on his journey home, which took on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, before eventually arriving in Manchester.

It comes as it was revealed that Alex had set off on his four-day walk in a bid to get new identity papers so he could enroll at a French school and get an education.

Owners of the isolated farmhouse lived in, known as the remote Gite de la Bastide, said they took the boy – known to locals as Zach – under his wing and treated him as a member of the family.

He would stay with them for weeks and months at a time, but also spend time with his mother at whichever ‘community’ in the remote Aude and Ariege departments of the Pyrenees she was living with at the time. 

He was taken on outings throughout the summer, including cycling on railway lines and trips to the beach and the river.

Alex, or Zach, as he was known, arrived at the remote Gite de la Bastide with his grandfather and mother in the autumn of 2021 

The owners of the Gite, Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve, (pictured) took the British youngster under their wing and treated him as a member of the family

The youngster was given ‘free access’ to the fridge and ‘unlimited’ internet access. He liked cooking and helping out in the garden.

On Sundays he would meet up with his mother at one of the many markets that are held in valley villages of the Pyrenees.

However earlier this month Alex announced he was returning to the UK to get the identity documents he needed to enrol in a local school to study computer science. He told his French hosts he no longer had his ID.

In a long and carefully written statement the French couple explained how they only ever wanted the best for the British youngster and treated him as a member of their family.

They only learned of his real identity and his painful story of abduction from news reports last week, they said.

In a parting note they wished him ‘good luck’ in his new life with his grandmother Susan Caruana.

On Friday, the Alex’s grandmother, whom it is understood the boy will live with, spoke of her ‘relief and happiness’ that her beloved grandson had finally been found after years of desperate searching.

‘I spoke with him last night and it was so good to hear his voice and see his face again,’ Mrs Curuana said in a statement released by police on Friday.

‘I can’t wait to see him when we’re reunited. The main thing is that he’s safe, after what would be an overwhelming experience for anyone, not least a child.’

Matt Boyle of Greater Manchester Police confirmed Alex’s ‘safe return back to the UK after six years’.

Since September 2017 Alex is thought to have been living in a ‘spiritual community’ in the French Pyrenees with his mother, then 37, and grandfather, then 58.

Alex Batty’s Grandmother Susan Caruana answers her door to reporters at her home in Oldham, Greater Manchester on Friday

Assistant chief Matt Boyle speaks at Greater Manchester Police Headquarters after Alex Batty arrives back in the UK, in Manchester, Britain, December 16, 2023

French authorities said on Friday Alex had attended a spiritual memorial ceremony to honour his grandfather. 

French cops said on Friday that Alex said his mother had decided to flee the mountain community to Finland following the death of his grandfather six months ago. 

Assistant Prosecutor Antoine Leroy said: ‘When his mother indicated that she was going to leave with him to Finland, this young man understood that this had to stop. 

‘So then he decided to leave the place where he was with his mother and walked for four days and four nights.’

Police said last night they had not yet been able to locate Ms Batty who could be in Finland. 

Neighbours living near to the isolated farmhouse where Alex was said to have been living have given contradictory reports, however, claiming that his grandfather – known to locals as Peter – was alive. 

They claimed they saw Peter seen mowing the lawn of the Gite de la Bastide in the hamlet La Bastide, about an hour’s drive south of Carcassonne.

A neighbour, who gave his name only as Sebastian, said: ‘Peter is not dead. I saw him a week ago, maybe ten days. He was mowing the grass in front of the Gite.

‘I know this because my mum’s dog loves him. She is a white border collie and he throws a stick for her.’

Some of Alex’s friends on Facebook include people who appeared to live off-grid, practicing rituals, meditation and yoga. This is a picture one of them posted to social media


Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle speaking to the media about British teenager Alex Batty at Greater Manchester Police Force Headquarters in Manchester, Saturday December 16, 2023

Sebastian said that Alex – known to locals as Zak – had lived in the Gite with his grandfather part of the time and spent the rest of the time with his mother somewhere in the neighbouring department of Ariege.

Alex was found on a deserted countryside road heading towards Toulose on Wednesday at 3am by 26-year-old Fabien Accidini, a student and delivery driver from Marseilles.

The exhausted teen was seen carrying a skateboard, a flashlight and a rucksack on his back when he was picked up by Fabien.

Fabien told La Depeche newspaper of the moment he discovered the teenager: ‘He was walking while the rain fell in heavy drops. The second time I passed him, I decided to offer to drop him off somewhere.

‘He was quite tall and blond, and dressed in black jeans, a white sweater and a backpack. He also carried a skateboard under his arm and a flashlight for lighting. His attitude gave me confidence. He ended up getting into my van.’

Fabien said that Alex seemed tired and stressed when he picked him up, but was ‘really fine physically’.

He added: ‘During the first few minutes, he seemed a little shy. We tried to speak in French but I noticed that he had not mastered the language. 

Alex Batty disappeared with his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty in 2017

Gite de la Bastide, remote part of the Pyrenees where teenager Alex Batty was living with his Grandfather David Batty

‘I decided to communicate in English. When I asked him his name, he pretended his name was Zach, and then we continued chatting.’

Fabien said that Alex told him he had been living with his mother and grandfather in a ‘spiritual commune’ after they kidnapped him.

Alex then went on to tell the driver that his mother was ‘a little crazy’ and ‘in some bizarre delirium when he was talking about spirituality’ but insisted that she had never imprisoned him and he could ‘leave when he wanted’.

‘He had no animosity towards his mother but he really wanted to find his grandmother. He really missed his loved ones,’ Fabien said.

‘We talked for over three hours! Very quickly, he gave me his real identity – Alex Batty –before telling me his story.

‘He said his mother kidnapped him when he was 12 years old. Since then he had lived in Spain in a luxury house with around ten people for three years.

‘He arrived in France around 2021. In the middle of the weekend, he decided to leave his mother to join his family in England. He had been walking for more than four days.’

Alex told Fabien that he now plans to go back to school to become an engineer, Afp reported. 

Fabien took Alex to the police in Revel, near Toulouse.  Alex told detectives he had pent time in the spirtual community that focused on ‘work on the ego, meditation and reincarnation’, French prosecutors said.

Alex’s cousin Stephen Devine said: ‘Alex’s mum was involved in a cult. His grandma became his guardian but then his mum Melissa and grandfather offered to take him on holiday for a week and they were never seen again.

‘It is going to be a big adjustment for him (to be home). He’s probably grown up without a formal education.’

At the time of his disappearance, his grandmother said she though her daughter and ex-husband had taken him abroad after falling into a cult-like lifestyle

Speaking about Alex’s condition when he was checked over by officials, French officers said: ‘This young man was described by the police who have seen him and by the doctors who examined him as ‘tired’ but overall in good health.

‘He’s said to be intelligent even though he’s never been to school in this entire period.’

Alex told detectives that his mother and grandfather had an ‘obsession’ with solar energy and they moved from house to house while taking the solar panels with them.

‘The mother experienced a sort of obsession with solar panels, so they were travelling to house to house with solar panels,’ Leroy said. ‘They only used car-sharing, they didn’t have their own vehicle.’

Alex remained in the care of social services in Toulose with his passport application being ‘expedited’ so he could return to the UK quickly. 

Detectives from Greater Manchester Police then flew out to the Ariege region in France this week, which is known for hippy camps, conspiracy theorists, sects and cults, to bring Alex back home. 

The officers from GMP are not currently being sent out to join the hunt for his mother and grandfather, it is understood, with detectives liaising with their French counterparts on the ground. 

The mayor of one rural hamlet in the Pyrenees, La Bastide, who knows the teenager, described Alex as a ‘happy and polite’ young man, but added: ‘He’ll be happy to be back with his grandmother.’ 

Upon Alex’s return last night, assistant chief Boyle added: ‘Our continued focus is supporting Alex and his family in partnership with other local agencies to ensure they are safe, their wellbeing is looked after, and his reintegration with society is as easy as possible.

‘We are yet to establish the full circumstances surrounding his disappearance, but no matter what, understand that this may be an overwhelming process. He may now be six years older than when he went missing, but he is still a young person.’

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