Alex Batty’s mother Melanie is a conspiracy theorist who wanted to set up a ‘spiritual


The fugitive mother of abducted British teenager Alex Batty is a conspiracy theorist who wanted to set up a ‘spiritual community’ in the south of France, MailOnline has learned.

As Interpol joined the hunt for Melanie Batty, a friend told how the mother lived in an American-style caravan at a campsite in the remote Ariege region close to where her son was picked up by a lorry driver in the dead of night last week. She is since believed to have travelled to Finland.

French police said the 17-year-old made the decision to flee the ‘spiritual community’ after his mother made plans to travel to the Nordic country following the death of her father – Alex’s grandfather – six months ago. 

British expat Susie Harrison has told how she got to know the fugitive – who called herself Rose – at the weekly Esperaza Sunday market, which is popular with members of the alternative communities dotted around the Pyrenees.

‘Rose is a conspiracy theorist. She believed that Covid-19 was not real, that it was created by the state to control the people,’ Ms Harrison, 61, told MailOnline. 

Melanie Batty (pictured centre with her son Alex, left, and father, right) is a conspiracy theorist who wanted to set up a 'spiritual community' in the south of France, MailOnline has learned

Melanie Batty (pictured centre with her son Alex, left, and father, right) is a conspiracy theorist who wanted to set up a ‘spiritual community’ in the south of France, MailOnline has learned

Susie Harrison, who is a friend of Melanie Batty (known as Rose to the locals) is pictured in the town of Esperaza. She has told how she got to know the fugitive at the weekly Sunday market which is popular with members of alternative communities in the region

Susie Harrison, who is a friend of Melanie Batty (known as Rose to the locals) is pictured in the town of Esperaza. She has told how she got to know the fugitive at the weekly Sunday market which is popular with members of alternative communities in the region

Alex Batty, from Oldham, was 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017. He was found last week

Alex Batty, from Oldham, was 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017. He was found last week

Alex  (pictured left) with his mother Melanie (centre) and grandfather David (right) six years ago. His mother is believed to be in Finland

Alex  (pictured left) with his mother Melanie (centre) and grandfather David (right) six years ago. His mother is believed to be in Finland

‘I would talk to her sitting outside the café. The last time I saw her I had my arm in a plaster cast, so I talked about that.’ 

Ms Harrison said she was aware that Ms Batty lived at a campsite close to the village of Chalabre in southern France, and that she gave ‘therapeutic massages’.

She also suggested that she had seen Alex’s grandfather David ‘two weeks ago’ – contrary to French police saying on Friday that he had died six months ago.

‘[Melanie] lived at a campsite in somewhere in [the neighbouring department of] Ariege,’ Ms Harrison said.

‘I don’t know what she did for money, but I know she gave therapeutic massages.

‘But she really wanted to set up a spiritual community here in the south of France.

‘I don’t know exactly what the community was about but she wanted to create a special group of like-minded people.

‘Sometimes she would be there with her son who was known as Zach. And her father would be there too. He was called Peter.

‘I last saw Rose a few weeks ago. I can’t remember exactly when.

‘But I saw Peter, her father, two weeks ago.’ 

‘I was hitching a ride to go to the market at Esperaza and he was in the car that stopped. I sat in the back with him. He was speaking English so we chatted.

‘We drove past a farm that had a yurt standing in a field.

‘He told me that he had helped to erect the yurt.’

Ms Harrison is not the first person to say they saw Alex’s grandfather alive recently.

While French authorities told a press conference on Friday that Alex’s grandfather David had died six months ago, neighbours living in the hamlet of La Bastide, about an hour’s drive south of Carcassonne, said they saw him less than ten days ago.

They said David was seen mowing the lawn of the Gite de la Bastide. No record of his death has been filed.

Alex Batty's grandmother Susan Caruana answers her door to reporters at her home in Oldham, Greater Manchester on Friday, before Alex returned to the UK on Saturday

Alex Batty’s grandmother Susan Caruana answers her door to reporters at her home in Oldham, Greater Manchester on Friday, before Alex returned to the UK on Saturday

Alex first went missing aged 11 in 2017 after his mother, who was not his legal guardian, took him on a pre-arranged trip to Spain with his grandfather. 

Greater Manchester Police, who put out a missing persons alert for the youngster at the time, are now understood to be working with European agency Interpol to find the missing mother, according to The Sun newspaper.

Like her father, Melanie Batty also went by a different name to locals.

Locals said the British fugitive lived at the La Pibola campsite in a huge American-style caravan until about a year ago.

A woman at the La Pibola campsite, who gave her name only as Plume, told MailOnline: ‘A British woman called Rose lived at this camp site. She had a big American-style caravan. It cannot be pulled by a car. It can only be moved by a lorry.

‘She moved about a year ago. She left the caravan here. But the campsite owner ordered her to move it. So she had to organise a lorry to move it.

‘I didn’t know her. She was very solitary. She does not speak French so it was difficult to communicate with her.’

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

He was found walking along a deserted country road in the middle of the night on Wednesday after escaping the ‘nomadic’ commune.

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.

But Alex wanted to return to the UK to get identity documents so that he could study computer science at school, the family said.

In a statement obtained by MailOnline, they said: ‘As far as we know, she (Ms Batty) was looking for a place to live in a community. La Bastide does not have this ambition. Nor are we a spiritual community.’

The statement added: ‘As time went on, we saw him as part of our family and we think he appreciated the stability and security we represent for him.

‘We encouraged him to learn French and study. In particular, we helped him find a school where he could be admitted without prior education. He showed a certain aptitude for computers.

The lonely road heading towards Toulouse where Alex was found walking on Wednesday

The lonely road heading towards Toulouse where Alex was found walking on Wednesday 

Alex was found by  26-year-old Fabien Accidini, a student and delivery driver from Marseilles

Alex was found by  26-year-old Fabien Accidini, a student and delivery driver from Marseilles

Alex decided to flee the 'spiritual community' and his mother and grandfather in the rural foothills of the French Pyrenees (file image)

Alex decided to flee the ‘spiritual community’ and his mother and grandfather in the rural foothills of the French Pyrenees (file image)

‘He was eager to go to school and get back to a normal life – and for that he needed his ID which he told us he no longer had.

‘When we learned that he did not have an ID, we offered to drive him to the British Consulate. He told us he would find a way to return to the UK on his own to get new [identity] papers and go back to school. To this end, he told us, he left on December 17 to join his mother.’

They said they knew Alex as Zach and he arrived at the gite with his grandfather and mother, though Ms Batty was said to have never lived there.

During his stays, Alex had his own room, unlimited free internet access, and freedom to come and go as he pleased, they said – adding that he also liked to cook, participate in life at the gite and enjoyed cycling and visiting the beach.

They said he also got on well with the pair’s children and ate dishes prepared by Ms Beauve and Mr Hambye which included beef stew, chocolate cake and pasta bolognese.

Alex would reportedly accompany the couple to the nearby market to buy tuna sandwiches and meet his mother, with whom Ms Beauve and Mr Hambye said they had little contact.

The pair said the boy stayed for ‘some longer and shorter periods’ and would also visit his mother.

The property is in Camps-sur-l’Agly, they said, a commune that had a population of 51 people in 2020, according to the French census.

Tourists, hikers, cyclists and horseback riders travelling in the area are said to visit the site.

Alex has returned to family in Greater Manchester, which police say is ‘where he wants to be’.

His grandmother previously said she ‘can’t wait’ to see him.

Greater Manchester Police are currently considering whether to launch a criminal investigation into his disappearance.

A source said if his mother had escaped to Finland, she would ‘absolutely have needed a passport’ which could making tracing her journey ‘relatively easy’.

The owners of the Gite, Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve, (pictured) took the British youngster under their wing and treated him as a member of the family

The owners of the Gite, Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve, (pictured) took the British youngster under their wing and treated him as a member of the family

‘The boy claims that his mother has gone to Finland to see the Northern Lights, so the search for her is continuing across Europe,’ an investigating source in Toulouse said on Sunday.

‘This does not mean that the search has stopped in France – she has been placed here regularly over the years, and may well still be hiding in the countryside. All kinds of information is circulating, and a lot of it does not add up.’

Focusing on Ms Batty, the source said: ‘If she did travel to Finland, then she would absolutely have needed a passport. 

‘This would make tracing her journey relatively easy.’



Read More

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More