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British boy returns home to UK after disappearing for six years

By Sophie Tanno, CNN

London (CNN) — A British boy who was found in France after going missing for six years has landed safely back in the UK, according to local police.

Alex Batty never returned from holiday in Spain with his mother Melanie Batty and his grandfather in 2017. Now aged 17, he was found near the city of Toulouse in the French department of Haute-Garonne on Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for regional authorities told CNN.

“It gives me great pleasure to say Alex has now made his safe return back to the UK after six years,” Assistant Chief Constable Matt Boyle, of Greater Manchester Police, told reporters on Saturday, according to the UK’s national news agency, Press Association.

The teenager met with a family member and UK police officers in the Toulouse airport before beginning his much-belated flight home, Boyle also said.

Batty is expected to be reunited with his grandmother Susan Caruana, who lives in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and is the boy’s legal guardian, PA reported.

In a statement issued through police, Caruana said she “can’t wait” to see her grandson.

“I cannot begin to express my relief and happiness that Alex has been found safe and well,” she said, adding that her family request privacy as they welcome him back.

It is understood that Alex’s grandfather died around six months ago, and that the boy’s mother – who does not have legal parental guardianship – may currently be in Finland, Reuters news agency reported citing Toulouse’s deputy prosecutor Antoine Leroy.

Found by a French motorist

The teenager was recovered this week from the side of the road by a French motorist, Fabien Accidini, who claimed the boy had been living in a “spiritual community” in the country for the last two years.

Accidini, a chiropractic student, had been delivering medicines to pharmacies overnight when he first came across Batty. After initially giving him a false name, Batty spoke to Accidini for three hours in English and French.

“He told me he was kidnapped by his mother five years ago in Morocco. After that he was in Spain. And that he had been living France for the past two years in a spiritual community,” Accidini told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Accidini said the boy described his mother as “a bit crazy.”

Speaking to the BBC, a local from Quillan – the town where Alex was found – described how the area was home to a community of international nomads who have shunned a “normal life.”

“A lot of people here think they’re wrongdoers, high on drugs, but you find drugs everywhere. They just want an alternative life,” she told the outlet.

CNN’s Maya Szaniecki, Joseph Ataman, Caitlin Danaher, Alex Hardie and Niamh Kennedy contributed reporting.

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