Alex Batty, now 17, arrived back in Britain on Saturday after going missing in Spain six years ago at the age of 11. Batty had been living under the radar in southern France before unexpectedly showing up at a small guest house in late November. His discovery and return home has sparked joy and relief for British authorities while also raising questions about his mother’s possible involvement in his years-long disappearance.
Background on Alex Batty’s Disappearance
Alex Batty vanished while on holiday with his mother, Sarah Batty, in Spain’s Catalonia region in summer 2017. His father reported him missing that year after Sarah failed to return Alex home to Britain as planned.
An international missing persons investigation was launched at the time but failed to locate Alex or Sarah in the years since their disappearance from Spain. It was suspected that Sarah may have taken Alex to an “off-grid spiritual community” abroad without his father’s consent.
|Alex Batty, age 11, goes on holiday to Spain with his mother Sarah Batty
|Alex reported missing by his father after Sarah fails to return him home to Britain
|2017 – 2023
|International investigation into Alex’s disappearance yields no leads on his whereabouts
Discovery in France After 6 Years
Stunningly, Alex Batty turned up again last month when he arrived alone and on foot at a small guest house in the village of Montagnac in southern France on the evening of November 24.
The owners of the guest house, Guillaume Delpuech and his girlfriend Lola, told French media that Alex showed up in the rain asking for accommodation and food. They described him as “timid and frightened” when he first arrived.
Unsure of what to make of his sudden appearance, the couple allowed Alex to stay with them for several weeks as winter set in. They reported that he helped out with chores around their farm and seemed to enjoy the temporary life there.
Alarm Bells and a Police Investigation
However, alarm bells started going off for Guillaume and Lola earlier this month when Alex refused their suggestion to notify the UK authorities of his whereabouts. This prompted them to take matters into their own hands and report him to local French police.
Authorities swiftly launched an investigation, complete with DNA analysis, and positively identified the guest house visitor as the long-missing British teen Alex Batty.
Guillaume and Lola told reporters that when police arrived, Alex refused to cooperate and darted away into the surrounding woods to evade questioning. After hours of searching, he returned to the guest house on his own later that night.
Returning to Britain After Years Abroad
On Friday, December 15th, British authorities including Alex’s hometown police force in Oldham announced they had been notified of his discovery in France and were making arrangements for his return to the UK.
Alex then boarded a flight with UK officers on Saturday and touched down in Britain, marking his first time setting foot in his home country since summer 2017.
In a statement upon Alex’s arrival, Detective Superintendent Lewis Hughes of the Greater Manchester Police Force said: “This is an ongoing situation, and I would once again like to thank the public and the media for their continued understanding and restraint. Let’s give Alex time to adjust, and the professionals working with him the space to help him”
Hughes added that no arrests have currently been made in relation to Alex’s years-long disappearance but also stated “there are certain factors we are looking at” regarding his mother Sarah’s potential role or knowledge of his whereabouts over the past 6 years.
What Comes Next for Alex Batty?
Alex has reportedly been placed under special protection by UK authorities since returning home. Police said he will undergo a range of physical and mental health assessments in the coming weeks to determine any issues caused by his disappearance and years spent apparently “living off-grid.”
It is expected he will eventually return to living with his father full-time, who had maintained Alex’s bedroom for him exactly as it was 6 years ago in hopes he might someday come back. However, the long period spent away from Britain and his father’s care may complicate their relationship and living situation going forward.
The UK investigation into Alex’s years in secrecy is still in early stages. Police will aim to piece together a timeline of where exactly Alex was over the past 6 years, what type of conditions he was living in, who he was with, and who may have assisted with hiding him.
There will be particular scrutiny placed on Alex’s mother Sarah and whether she had knowledge of or direct involvement in his extended disappearance. She will likely face criminal charges if evidence does show willful wrongdoing on her part.
For the time being though, British authorities are expressing relief that Alex is at least back in their protection and on UK soil after so many years missing abroad. It will undoubtedly be a long process ahead for Alex Batty as he tries to adjust to normal British life again at 17 years old after his truly extraordinary childhood spent off-the-grid and on the run for over half a decade.
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