By Juliette Jabkhiro and Tassilo Hummel
PARIS (Reuters) -A teenager from Britain who disappeared six years ago has been found in southern France, local authorities said on Thursday, fleeing a spiritualist mountain community according to a driver who crossed paths with him and informed police.
His family has confirmed his identity as Alex Batty, originally from Greater Manchester, the local prosecution office told Reuters.
“He should soon be returning to England,” a spokesperson from the Toulouse public prosecution office said, adding that the criminal investigation into Batty’s disappearance is being led by British authorities.
Batty – then 11 years old – had disappeared during a trip with his mother and grandfather to Malaga, Spain, in 2017.
“He told me he had been marching for four days after he set off from the mountains”, Fabien Accidini, a delivery driver who spotted the teenager wandering along a highway in the region around the southern city of Toulouse, told newspaper La Depeche.
The paper first reported about Batty’s resurfacing. It said the teenager had lived among a spiritual community in the Pyrenees mountains, known for being a destination for escapists from across Europe in pursuit of an alternative way of life.
The whereabouts of Batty’s mother, who had vanished with her son in 2017, were still unknown.
“He told me his mother was a little, not crazy but having a somewhat bizarre spiritual mindset, …, staying in the mountains with a group of people”, Accidini said, adding:
“He did not appear to have been miserable to live there, but he was very happy to have left.”
Greater Manchester Police earlier on Thursday said it had been contacted by French authorities regarding a possible sighting of the teenager.
(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro and Tassilo Hummel in Paris, additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London; editing by William Maclean and Josie Kao)