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Emile: Hundreds of police deployed to remote French Alps hamlet days after remains of two-year-old boy found

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Hundreds of police officers have reportedly been deployed to a remote hamlet in the French Alps where the remains of a two-year-old boy were discovered on Saturday, as forensic experts analyse soil from the area where his bones were found.

French authorities are trying to determine how the boy, known only as Emile, died after his bones were discovered by a walker in a forested mountain area near Le Vernet in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

Emile was last seen by two witnesses walking down the street near his grandparents’ house in the area on 8 July last year. His bones, including a skull, were discovered near to where he disappeared.

Anthropologists have been analysing the soil in the area where the bones were found as they hope to determine how long the remains had been there.

Colonel Marie-Laure Pezant, spokesperson for the National Gendarmerie, told French media: “We call it forensic archaeology. The idea is to check if there are clues that allow us to know if the bones were present for a long time.”

Emile’s skull is also being analysed by forensic experts who are trying to work out his cause of death.

However, the analysis will not allow investigators to determine the date he died, according to reports in France.

And hundreds of police officers have been at the scene as investigators try to determine whether the location is where Emile died, or if the bones were moved there afterwards, French broadcaster BFM TV reports.

François Daoust, former director of the forensic science department of the French National Gendarmerie, told French media: “The zero point is missing, where there are the maximum number of bones, the place where the child fell or was placed.”

The National Gendarmerie also reportedly deployed three drones fitted with multispectral sensors over the scene on Monday.

The drones will “very finely map the entire scene by taking photos and then reconstruct it in 3D and 2D”, Lieutenant Aurélien S., the head of the National Gendamerie’s forensic department, said.

This means investigators will always have access to a recreation of the scene when the remains were first found – allowing them to detect any change in the terrain since then.

Police have also deployed a dog team which specialises in finding human remains as some of Emile’s body parts remain missing, according to local media.

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Missing French boy pic -  Emile released by French police
Pic:Gendarmerie nationale
https://twitter.com/Gendarmerie/status/1678072484392845315
Image:
Pic: Gendarmerie Nationale

What happened after Emile initially disappeared?

Emile had arrived in the area to stay with his maternal grandparents for the summer holidays the day before he went missing last year.

Francois Balique, the local mayor, said at the time that the couple “realised he was no longer there when they went to put him in the car”.

They live in a remote mountain village with only two dozen inhabitants just outside Le Vernet, between Grenoble and Nice.

The little boy was less than 3ft tall and was wearing a yellow T-shirt and white shorts when he was last seen.

A massive ground search involving dozens of police officers and soldiers, supported by sniffer dogs, a helicopter and drones, failed to find him, as did a reconstruction in which his family took part.

Police admitted they had no idea what had happened to him.

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A prosecutor said after several days it was unlikely such a young child would have survived in the summer heat.

The case, which began as a missing person investigation, soon became a criminal inquiry into a possible abduction, although police did not rule out murder, an accident or a fall.

In late November, a day before Emile would have turned three, his parents published a call for answers in a Christian weekly publication, France 24 said.

“Tell us where he is,” they wrote.



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