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British boy who went missing in France for six years says being back home feels ‘surreal’

By Catherine Nicholls, CNN

London (CNN) — Alex Batty, a British boy who was found in France after going missing for six years, says it feels “surreal” to be back with his grandmother in the United Kingdom.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday, Batty – who is now 17 – said: “Every time I go to sleep, I feel like I’m gonna be waking up back in France. It’s not really kicked in yet that I am back in England.”

The teenager spoke of the six years he spent living in Spain and France after he was taken on holiday by his mother and grandfather in 2017 and didn’t return.

He said that for the first few years away from home, it was like a “vacation,” as he spent most of his time “reading, drawing, (and) going to the beach.”

After he turned 14, however, Batty said that he “started needing to pick up (his) own slack” to pay for food and rent by working in construction, demolition and decoration. He said around this time, he began to start thinking about leaving for England.

“I started weighing up the pros and the cons from each lifestyle and, after a couple of months of contemplation, I realised England was definitely the way forward,” he said. “From the past few years, I could envision my future few years and it just wasn’t the way forward (that) was best for my future.”

Batty said he had a “non-existent social life” while living with his mother and grandfather, saying he only made one friend during the six years abroad.

The teenager said when he decided to leave France to try to reach England, he wrote a note for his mother. “(I) told her how much I loved her, how much I appreciated what she had done for me. I didn’t want her to worry about me,” he said.

He took a warm jacket, his skateboard, and some money for food, and left in the “pitch black” night, where it was “raining quite a lot.” He said he traveled at night, sleeping as little as he could, and in well-lit areas for his safety.

Now back in England, Batty said he is “very happy” and “healthy.” He said he still loves his mother and grandfather and doesn’t want them to worry about him.

“Sorry for leaving but it was necessary for my future,” he said, addressing them in a video posted to The Sun’s website.

“I can take care of myself so you don’t have to worry about any of that,” he added.

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