The British teenager found in France six years after he went missing has said he does not want his fugitive mother to be caught.
Alex Batty was found in December, more than half a decade after his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David took the then 11 year-old, on what was supposed to be a week-long vacation but never returned home.
The now 17-year-old returned to the UK last year and reunited with his grandmother Susan Caruana, the legal guardian who had made emotional appeals over the years for his safe return. Greater Manchester Police has since launched a criminal investigation into the alleged abduction.
However, on Sunday Alex revealed his hopes his mother and grandfather do not get caught, insisting: “Mum did it out of love.”
“I hope the police don’t find them,” he told the Mirror: “Mum did what she did out of love. It’s what she thought was best and that’s all you can really do, isn’t it? She and my grandad did it with the best intentions.”
The teenager said he is certain the on-the-run pair will not get in touch with him for fear of capture, even though his birthday is coming up on Tuesday.
“I know they’re not going to get in contact,” he told the newspaper. “They’re definitely not going to risk it. If they get in contact, it’ll be when they’re 100 per cent sure they’re all right. They won’t rush it for my birthday… I love them both, but if I don’t see them again it’s not a big deal. You can love someone and not talk to them.”
“Mum probably wants to see me but she can’t, can she? She will probably be angry that I left. I think she’ll be angry that I didn’t listen to her. If I could speak to them both now, I would just say, ‘I hope you’re all right’, and tell them I’m all right.”
A delivery driver found Alex walking along a road in southern France in the middle of the night on 13 December. The boy told police he had been living a nomadic lifestyle in Spain, Morocco and France with his mother and grandfather as part of a “spiritual community” and decided to leave when his mother talked about going to Finland.
Alex previously told The Sun he feared the pair could be arrested on suspicion of child abduction, so he had lied about his escape.
He had left the place they had been staying two days earlier – not four days as he initially reported – and provided other details he thought would throw investigators off their trail, he said.
“I’ve been lying to try and protect my mum and grandad, but I realise that they’re probably gonna get caught anyway,” he told the newspaper. “I pretended I had been on such a long journey for that reason.”
Alex is now settling back into his life in the UK. He has started a computer programming course and is currently occupied with celebrations for his 18th birthday, including a meal with family – including his grandmother, her new husband, uncle and cousin – and a pub crawl.