Alex Batty’s off-grid life in France: British teenager is pictured with his mother and grandfather as they chat to friends outside bar in small Pyrenees town

‘Abducted’ British teenager Alex Batty has been pictured with his mother and grandfather during their ‘off grid’ lifestyle in the south of France.

The image comes as the 17-year-old school broke his silence about his dramatic escape back to the UK in his first interview since being found in the Pyrenees. 

After spending six years wandering across Europe, before taking the daring leap to flee the ‘hippy pain in the a** lifestyle’ he led with his mother, Melanie Batty and her father, David. 

He added his mother would often leave him for long stretches of time – up to seven months – and held ‘anti-government’ beliefs, including that many people are ‘slaves’. 

Frustrated and wanting to return to the UK, Alex left in the dead of night, leaving his mother a note apologising. He walked for 22 miles over two days before a delivery driver spotted him carrying a skateboard at 3am and stopped for him, concerned.

After using the driver’s phone to contact his grandmother Susan Caruana, 68, Alex is now back home in Oldham and looking forward to spending Christmas with relatives who haven’t seen him since he vanished with his mother when he was 11. 

Now photos have emerged of Melanie and David looking relaxed with Alex outside a bar in a village square in the Pyrenees mountains in June this year – months before the teen’s audacious bid for freedom.

Melanie Batty sitting next to her father David Batty and her son Alex Batty (far left) at a market in June 2023
Alex’s mother and alleged kidnapper, 48-year-old Melanie Batty, remains on the run, while her father David – previously reported as having died earlier this year, is in fact alive, according to Alex (pictured right)
Alex Batty spoke out about how he escaped in the dead of night and walked for miles

The off-grid trio who were being sought by the British authorities after Alex disappeared six years ago had made a trip to a weekly market in Esperaza, which is popular with members of alternative communities they associated with.

Dressed in a white summer dress with her hair tied up and wearing sunglasses and sandals, Ms Batty looks like any tourist in the south of France.

READ MORE: Alex Batty breaks silence in first interview since return from France to reveal he left after fall-out with mother and MADE UP mountains trek escape tale as he says: ‘She’s not a great mother’

Sitting next to her in a black T-shirt, combat trousers and trainers is her son Alex. He appears like any teenager, slightly bored but listening as the adults chat.

On the other side, with a white goatee beard, denim shirt and with sunglasses on his head is Ms Batty’s father, David, 64.

Over the shoulders of the British family a street performer plays her guitar and sings to the many tourists who flock to the popular Sunday market.

But behind the relaxed, holiday façade, 43-year-old Ms Batty was hiding the secret of the kidnapping of her own son and their six-year-life on the run.

Adopting the name Rose, she lived an itinerant life, giving her son the name Zack, and dragging him around Spain and Morocco before settling in the south of France two years ago.

Supported by her father, Ms Batty was in search of a ‘spiritual life’ and told how she wanted to set up an alternative community with like-minded people.

Alex, from Oldham, was 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain

Alex is pictured with his mother Melanie, left, and her father David Batty, middle

However, she has also revealed a little about her reasons for fleeing Britain and taking her son on the run.

Opening up for the first time about his lifestyle and mother, Alex said: ‘She’s a good person. But she’s just not a great mum. She just doesn’t do motherly things that you’re supposed to do. She’s not very warm and open.’

His mother and alleged kidnapper remains on the run. Alex said she had spoken of going to see the Northern Lights in Finland with friends.

Alex, who never went to school while living with his mother, dreamed of becoming a software engineer.

He walked out on his mother and his grandfather. Alex told The Sun: ‘I had an argument with my mum and I just thought I’m gonna leave because I can’t live with her.’

The teenager had convinced his mother to move to a rented farmhouse rather than living in the mountains. 

He was weary of constantly moving house and working in exchange for food and boarding, and said he only made one friend his own age during his six years away – a Spanish girl he met in a cafe.

He said he learned languages by himself and studied maths and computing from textbooks but didn’t attend school.

Alex said he first had doubts about their alternative lifestyle when he was 14 and began considering his goals for the future.

He told The Sun: ‘I realised it wasn’t a great way to live for my future. The cloud had lifted because I started weighing everything up again — the pros and cons of England.

A tent inside woodland at the ‘Garden of Eden’ ‘spiritual community’ near Chalabre

A sign for L’Eden is pictured close to the spiritual community Alex once stayed at
Alex Batty (pictured left) with his mother Melanie and grandfather David six years ago

‘I wouldn’t know what was going to happen in my future if I were to stay with my mum, but from the past few years I could get a picture of what life would have been like.

READ MORE – Alex Batty says ‘I’m glad to be here for Christmas’ as he makes first statement since reuniting with his family in England after he was missing for more than six years 

‘Moving around. No friends, no social life. Working, working, work and not studying. That’s the life I imagined I would be leading if I were to stay with my mum.

‘In the mountains, in the middle of nowhere. No people my age. So when I was about 16 I spoke to grandad about going back to England.

‘My mum was against the idea. She was very anti-government, anti-vax. She was worried that if I were to go back to a country and get my ID I would be put into care. Her catchphrase was becoming a ‘slave to the system’.’

The 17-year-old escaped on Monday December 11 at around midnight, when his mother was asleep in bed.

Carrying only a skateboard and a rucksack filled with clothes and essentials, he set off for the nearest city –  Toulouse, 70 miles away.

He packed four T-shirts, three pairs of trousers, socks, pants, a torch, 100 euros and a Swiss Army Knife.

He left a note for his mother, which read: ‘Hey mum, I want you to know I love you very much. I am very thankful for the life that you provided for me over the past few years.

The Garden of Eden Spiritual community, where Melanie Batty was living

Gite de la Bastide in the part of the Pyrenees where teenager Alex was living

‘Don’t worry about yourselves – I’m sure you won’t get found. Don’t worry about me either. You know I can take care of myself.

‘I love you very much. Don’t be too mad with me. Love Alex.’ 

The teenager was worried about his mother and grandfather being arrested on suspicion of his abduction, so he lied to those he met on the road.

Alex – who used the alias Zack Edwards in France – made up a story about spending four days walking through the mountains.

The 17-year-old spent his first night sleeping outside in the cold in a woodland, drinking from mountain springs.

When he arrived at the town of Quillan, he bought a tuna baguette to eat. But he waited until 6pm to leave because he was worried his mother might pass in her car.

He said he tried to be ‘clever’ and walked from Quillan back to Chalabre, asking for directions and telling those he met that he was lost.

But he said ‘I knew exactly where I was going’.

Speaking about the moment he was picked up by the driver, he told The Sun: ‘I slept outside on the ground. It was freezing. If I needed the toilet I used leaves and grass.

‘My plan was to get to Toulouse and get as far away as possible. But I was so knackered when the delivery driver picked me up I just blurted out a story.

‘I wasn’t even hitchhiking when he picked me up. I was walking across a little bridge. He said he stopped because he saw I had a skateboard. It was pouring with rain and pitch black as it was 3am.’

Alex said he was tired of his nomadic lifestyle and wanted to return home to see his gran
Pictured are members of the Garden of Eden spiritual community where Alex once stayed

The distraught teenager said he was ‘in bits on the floor’ when he was brought to the police station, worried he had said too much.

He said the police took his fingerprints ‘about five different times’ and sent photos of him to his grandmother.

From Wednesday to Friday, he spent the night at a foster home, and then he was told he could fly home.

READ MORE – First pictures of missing Alex Batty’s mother and grandfather living together as a family in France before the teen reappeared

When he arrived at Toulouse airport, his other grandfather was waiting with two police officers and a social worker. 

Alex said ‘I was so happy to see him, I gave him a big hug’. 

At 5pm, he boarded a flight to Amsterdam and then a connecting flight to Manchester touched down at 8.13pm.

Describing the moment he reunited with his grandmother, he said he was ‘shaking’ and gave her a ‘massive hug’.

He added: ‘The house is different now but still feels the same. The biggest difference is when I left I was a boy but now I’m 6ft so I’m too big for the bed. It feels great to be back. I have got a lot of help from social services and the police and want to go to college.

‘I understand a lot of French so I’m not going to let that go. I’m going to keep on studying. I want to do computer science or cyber security or blockchain development so I’m going to be busy studying and catching up.’

Alex believes his mother – who is using the fake name of Rose – plans to travel to Finland to see the Northern Lights. 

He said she would often abandon him to go off with her friends, leaving him with his grandfather – once for an entire seven month period.

The teenager said she held strong anti-government, ‘anti-vax’ views and believed a lot of people were ‘slaves’.

In contrast, his grandfather David would always listen to his concerns about their life.

Fondly referring to him as ‘Grandad Batty’ he said David along with his step-father ‘raised’ him and he saw them as father figures.

But friends of his mother – branded a ‘conspiracy theorist – with one telling the MailOnline: ‘Rose, as we knew Melanie, has fled. She’s long gone. She’s gone to Spain.

‘I think [her father] Peter has gone with her. She wanted to get away from all the attention.

‘Rose, her dad and Zac are a nice family but always a bit cautious.

‘I don’t know the full extent of their story, but it was not for nothing that they fled Britain.

‘Rose said she took her son out of a bad situation and protected him as much as she could for as long as she could.

‘She would mention odd things about her past. She said the life they were living in England before was hell.’

He added: ‘Zac is a lovely young man. He is always willing to help and to learn.

The now 17-year-old is ‘fearful of the glare of publicity’ since returning to the UK

‘It was the perfect time for him to leave his mum, to spread his wings.

‘She has done a good job protecting him. But it’s good that he’s gone back.’

Alex disappeared in 2017 when he failed to return to Britain from a pre-arranged trip to Spain with mother Melanie and grandfather David.

Greater Manchester Police put out a missing persons alert for the youngster who was 11 at the time.

Alex, now aged 17, was reunited with his grandmother Susan Caruana, who is his legal guardian, in Oldham on Saturday night.

He had been living at a remote farmhouse in the hamlet of La Bastide with his grandfather who worked as a handyman since the autumn of 2021.

He was cared for by the French family that owned the farmhouse, and was considered as part of the family.

French police said last week that Alex told them he decided to flee the commune following his grandfather’s death six months ago and after his mother said she planned to move with him to Finland.

However, during his latest interview, Alex revealed that his grandfather’s ‘death’ was a lie and claimed that he is still alive, despite the claims French prosecutor Antoine Leroy to the contrary. 

Alex (left) claimed his grandfather David (right) was still alive and had not died six months earlier (the pair are pictured with Alex’s mother, Melanie, middle)

‘I know he’s not passed away but I don’t know where he is because he was just moving around,’ Alex told The Sun. He said he had been with them both just two days before Alex’s escape at the Cafe des Sports in Chalabre, southern France.

Alex, now free of his nomadic lifestyle, intends to resume his studies while living in Oldham with his family. 

The determined teenager, who turns 18 in a few months time, has ambitions of going into a career in IT. 

Speaking to the Sun, he added: ‘It feels great to be back. I have got a lot of help from social services and the police and want to go to college. 

‘I understand a lot of French so I’m not going to let that go. I’m going to keep on studying.

‘I want to do computer science or cyber security or blockchain development so I’m going to be very busy studying and catching up on things.’

It was previously reported that Alex will remain under special legal protection as he builds his new life in the UK.

Represented by lawyers at a hearing at a Family Court hearing at Manchester Civil Courts of Justice, it was heard he is ‘fearful of the glare of publicity’.

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