11-year-old Alex Batty went missing in 2017. He's just escaped a French 'spiritual community'.

Six years after he was last seen, a British teenager has been found alive and well after hiking across the Pyrenees mountain range separating France and Spain.

Alex Batty, from Lancashire, England, was 11 when he did not return from a holiday near Marbella with his mother, Melanie Batty, and grandfather, David Batty, in 2017. At the time, police appealed for information and considered Melanie and David Batty wanted in connection with his alleged abduction. 

In 2018, his grandmother and legal guardian Susan Caruana, said she believed Alex was taken to Morocco as part of his mother's pursuit of an "alternative lifestyle"

She had allowed him to go on holiday with her daughter and ex-husband as ill health prevented her from taking him. On the day they were supposed to return to England, she said she received a Facebook message which linked her to a video of the trio.

"They all spoke on it and Melanie said the reasons why they had done what they had done," she said in a video appealing for Alex's return in 2018.

"Alex said it was a million times better being with his mum and granddad. Obviously it hurt a bit but then my other concerns kicked in.

"The reason I believe they have done this is because basically my lifestyle, my belief systems, are not what they agree with. They didn't want him to go to school, they don't believe in mainstream school. I love him so much," she said.


Authorities said the now 17-year-old had been found near Toulouse in Southern France after escaping a 'spiritual community'.

"The [boy's] identity was confirmed by the family after a photographic comparison by police," the Toulouse public prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

It was originally thought Alex, Melanie and David had gone to Morocco, where they had previously lived on a commune in 2014.

In recent weeks, Alex, his mother and grandfather had been living in a nomadic community between the areas of Ariege and Aude just east of Perpignan in southern France, in tents and caravans pitched in the wilderness, according to La Depeche newspaper.

He was found after days of hiking across the Pyrenees with a backpack, skateboard and headlamp, before being picked up by chiropractic student Fabien Accidini, who took him to a police station.

"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," Fabien told La Depeche.

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

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


Investigators said they have verified his story and identity. Alex was questioned by detectives and "recounted his incredible journey, serenely and calmly", La Depeche reported.

His grandmother Susan confirmed to the media she had spoken to her grandson and was "thrilled" he had been found.

"I am so happy. I have spoken to him and he is well," she told The Sun. "He is currently with the authorities in France. It is such a shock."

Susan had never given up hope of seeing Alex again.

On his 15th birthday, she appealed to him via Facebook.

"Please just give me a sign that you are okay," she wrote. "All I want to know is that you're alive and well. It's been years of torture. My heart is broken. I love you so much. I hope that I will see you again someday. I would give anything just for one hug."

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was supporting a British national in France and was in contact with local authorities.

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Feature image: Greater Manchester Police.

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