A British Boy, Missing for 6 Years, Turns Up in France

A British boy who disappeared at age 11 while on vacation six years ago in Spain has turned up in France, prosecutors there said. A delivery driver found the boy, who is now a teenager, walking in the rain early Wednesday carrying a skateboard and a flashlight.

The boy, Alex Batty, from Oldham, England, disappeared in 2017 while visiting Málaga with his mother and grandfather. None of them returned to Britain. Alex’s mother and grandfather, whose whereabouts remain unknown, are wanted by the British authorities for playing a role in his disappearance.

Alex’s legal guardian, his grandmother Susan Caruana, has said that she believed his mother, Melanie Batty, and his grandfather, David Batty, had sought out an alternative lifestyle with Alex on the continent. Ms. Caruana and Mr. Batty have not been involved since before Alex’s disappearance.

“The reason I believe they have done this is because basically my lifestyle, my belief systems, are not what they agree with: just simply living day to day, how normal people do,” Ms. Caruana told the Guardian in 2018. “They didn’t want him to go to school, they don’t believe in mainstream school.”

French prosecutors said that Alex, who is now 17, was found in Revel, in southwestern France. Family members had confirmed his identity from photographs, they said, and he was expected to return to Britain shortly. The Greater Manchester Police said they were in contact with French authorities.

The delivery driver who found him, Fabien Accidini, spotted Alex walking in the rainy darkness around 2 a.m. in Chalabre and stopped to give him a ride, he told the local paper La Dépêche.

Mr. Accidini said he talked with the teenager for three hours before taking him to the police. Alex told him that he had lived in Spain and later France in an itinerant spiritual community but had decided to leave, in part because he missed his loved ones back in Britain.

He told Mr. Accidini that he had been walking for four days.Photos have circulated in news reports for years showing a smiling boy with short, light brown hair. The authorities have not released a current photograph of the teenager.

“It’s Alex Batty, 100 percent,” Mr. Accidini told the paper. “When I saw the photos published by the English media, I absolutely did not doubt his words. I think he’s a little stressed about all this. I hope he will be able to reconnect with his previous life, and maybe one day we will see each other again.”

Ms. Caruana told The Times of London on Thursday: “I spoke to him this afternoon, and it is definitely him. I was speaking to a boy when he was with us, and now I’m speaking to a man.”

She added, “It’s quite unbelievable when you don’t know if somebody’s dead or alive.”

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris.