British teenager Alex Batty did not seem angry about being “kidnapped” by his mother six years ago and now just wants to live a “normal life”, the French student who found him has told Sky News.
Fabien Accidini offered the 17-year-old a lift in the early hours of Wednesday morning after spotting him walking alone in heavy rain near the southern French city of Toulouse.
As the pair travelled together, Alex revealed he had been kidnapped by his mother in 2017 when he was just 11 and had lived in a luxury house in Spain with around 10 people as part of a “spiritual community”, before moving to France in around 2021.
The teenager said he had been hiking in nearby mountains for more than four days in an attempt to return to England.
Speaking to Sky News in his first interview with a British news organisation, Mr Accidini said Alex seemed tired and stressed when he picked him up, but was otherwise calm and was “really fine physically”.
The 26-year-old initially did not believe the Briton’s story but eventually agreed to call the police after hearing more details of what happened to him.
‘He didn’t have regrets’
He said: “After I called the police to explain the situation, when the cops arrived, that’s when I realised the whole story [was real].”
The student said Alex did not seem angry at being held in the “community” and said he had not been chained up – although it was unclear if he had been allowed to leave at any time.
“He didn’t have regrets [about leaving the community]… he just wanted to live a normal life, to see his grandmother again and to have a normal future, that’s the word that he used,” the student said.
When asked if he had a message for Alex, Mr Accidini said: “I hope that your grandmother will be happy… I am sure of it. And if you want to meet again I am here.”
The student was working as a driver delivering medicines to pharmacies on the night he picked up Alex, and said the teenager had helped him with his job along the way.
He jokingly added that if Alex “want[s] to work with the pharmacy deliveries again call me”.
Missing since he was 11
Alex went abroad with his mother Melanie Batty, 38, who does not have legal parental guardianship, and his grandfather David Batty, 59, on a pre-agreed trip when he was 11.
He flew with them to Malaga Airport for a week-long stay in the Benahavis area near Marbella. However, the family did not return to England as expected in October 2017.
Despite international public appeals, Alex’s legal guardian – his grandmother Susan Caruana – has not seen him since he left the UK.
She previously said her daughter and ex-husband lived in a commune in Morocco with Alex in 2014 as part of an “alternative lifestyle”, which she thought lay behind the youngster’s disappearance.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “We are supporting a British national in France and are in contact with local authorities.”