Years After Vanishing, He Sent a Text: 'I Want to Come Home'

Alex Batty, allegedly kidnapped from the UK by his mother, was done with nomadic life
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2023 2:14 PM CST
Years After Vanishing, He Sent a Text: 'I Want to Come Home'
This undated photo shows British schoolboy Alex Batty before his disappearance in 2017.   (Greater Manchester Police via AP)

The vehicle's headlights silhouetted the exhausted teenager walking alone in the rain in deepest rural France, with a skateboard tucked under his arm. "I said to myself, 'That's strange. It's 3am in the morning, it's raining, he's all by himself on the road between two villages," delivery driver Fabien Accidini recounted. From there, the story gets stranger still, the AP reports. The youngster, it turned out, was Alex Batty, a 17-year-old from Britain who had been missing since 2017. British and French authorities confirmed on Friday that the teenager found by Accidini this week was the boy who vanished at age 11, when his mother and grandfather took him on what was meant to be a short family holiday in Spain.

Instead, it turned out to be a six-year-odyssey through Morocco, Spain, and southwest France, living a nomadic, off-the-grid life. Batty told French investigators that they moved from house to house, carrying their own solar panels, growing their own food and living with other families in what the teenager described as a "spiritual community," French authorities say. But Batty suddenly popped up again this Wednesday, on the remote road where Accidini found him, after he and his mother parted ways. A French prosecutor said Friday that the teenager decided to go his own way after his mother told him that she wanted them to move yet again—to Finland.

Speaking at a news conference in the southwestern French city of Toulouse, prosecutor Antoine Leroy said Batty walked for four nights—resting during the days—and fed himself with "different things that he found in fields or gardens" before Accidini picked him up and delivered him to the safe keeping of French police. The mother, Melanie Batty, has probably left for Finland, and the grandfather, David Batty, is thought to have died about six months ago, Leroy said. Both had been sought by British police in connection with Batty's disappearance. Accidini said the teen was suspicious and gave a false name when he offered him a ride, but eventually "he gave me his real name and told me that he had been kidnapped by his mother five years ago."

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The teen said he'd been in France for the past two years in a spiritual community. "He'd had enough. He said, 'I am 17. I need a future.' He didn't see a future for him there," Accidini said. Batty reportedly used Accidini's phone to send a message to his grandmother and guardian in the UK, saying in part, "i love you i want to come home." Greater Manchester Police said Batty has since spoken by video call with the grandmother, Susan Caruana. He is to be returned to relatives in Oldham, near Manchester, in "the next few days," Assistant Chief Constable Chris Sykes said, adding police were "still establishing the full circumstances around his disappearance and where he has been all these years." (More missing child stories.)

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