From anti-eviction Facebook groups to flat Earth conspiracy theories – how Alex Batty ended up in French commune

From anti-eviction Facebook groups to flat Earth conspiracy theories – how Alex Batty ended up in French commune

ANOTHER chapter of the Alex Batty saga has unfolded as a rather wild story explains how the teen ended up in the isolated and school-free commune in France.

Family friends claim his mum Melanie and granddad David abandoned their life in a mortgaged home in Greater Manchester, to live fighting against ‘the establishment’, the banks and bailiffs.

Pixel8000Family friends claim Alex Batty’s mum, left, and granddad, centre, became followers of a movement called the One People’s Public Trust[/caption]

Doug SeeburgThe family was reportedly living off-grid in this cottage in France[/caption]

Alex Batty, right, pictured in MoroccoFocus Features

From anti-eviction Facebook groups to flat Earth conspiracy theories, the duo’s “off-the-grid” philosophy included believing a homeowner shouldn’t have to pay a mortgage, council tax, electricity, gas or water bills, or for a TV licence.

In a compilation of accounts from close family sources, The Times reported how father and daughter became followers of a movement called the One People’s Public Trust.

The organisation claims to have “legally foreclosed” the global system of governments and companies, implying that all debt, including bank loans, has been wiped.

Foreclosure is the process of reclaiming property bought with borrowed funds, but the One People’s Public Trust argued governments owed the people money due to years of illegal taxation and made financial demands.

David and Melanie were said to be forming a belief system based on people they met on Facebook, including a sub-community of homeowners facing eviction, The Times reported.

The father-daughter duo befriended activists from “Protection from evictions” and “UK mortgage challengers.”

Some of them believed that residents should not be obliged to pay mortgages or bills, and some employed delaying strategies such as paying the mortgage lender £1 per month.

In 2013, David Batty had been fighting bailiffs taking possession of his small end-of-terraced house in Oldham after challenging times losing his job, falling ill, and divorcing Alex’s grandmother and legal guardian Susan.

Melanie, who was halfway through a law degree and said to be “extremely bright, but quite into conspiracy theories”, was helping her father at the time.

That included forming a protective barrier around her dad’s house with 30 people on the day bailiffs were meant to arrive – and succeeding.

“He didn’t like being charged bills,” David’s close friend told The Times.

“He lost his home in the end. We told Melanie to appeal the eviction. We said if you want to stop the eviction you should apply to the court to prevent the possession order.

“But she said: ‘I don’t want to do that because we’re playing their game.’

“That’s what they said. They didn’t want to play ‘the game’ any more.

“They got fed up with paying council tax, gas, electric, TV licence and mortgage.

“They decided to go a different way and choose to take Alex down that path.”

It was at the Facebook anti-eviction groups that Melanie and her dad reportedly befriended a divorced father and former IT consultant, who claimed he had found a free and limitless source of energy.

According to The Times, the man invited the duo to Morocco in 2014 to see a quantum energy generator.

There, in a makeshift lab, a crowd reportedly cheered and whistled when a mysterious device switch on a dozen light bulbs without any apparent power source.

That year, Melanie took Alex, then aged eight, to live in a commune in Morocco with David.

Some of the group the Battys were mixing in believed in conspiracy theories such as the Earth being flat, The Times reports.

Melanie was said to then go to live in Bali with a new boyfriend, according to Susan, leaving Alex behind in Morocco.

“I was panic-stricken and I paid for a flight home for him,” Susan said in a 2018 interview.

Alex then began living with his grandmother while his mother remained in Bali until the fateful 2017 trip to Spain.

In September that year, Alex, then aged 11, flew from Oldham with his mother and David on the pre-agreed trip to Malaga and never returned.

Melanie, David and Alex are known to have spent several years in Morocco before arriving in about 2020 in France, where they moved around an area of the Pyrenees, below Toulouse.

The Batty family would survive by moving from place to place in a nomadic community, eating vegetables grown in allotments while Melanie sold solar panels.

David was reported to have died about six months ago, but in a bizarre twist, he was spotted mowing grass just a week ago, neighbours claimed.

Alongside his mum and granddad, Alex was living in a dilapidated cottage high up in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

The sparsely-furnished, two-up two-down holiday let in the hamlet of La Bastide is more than 30 minutes’ drive from the nearest main road.

Locals say it is the perfect place “to fall off the grid”.

The owner, called Fred, is said to have let the trio stay in return for jobs. He declined to comment yesterday.

Neighbours often saw Alex and David working in the garden.

And local mayor Rolande Alibert, 76, said: “Alex always seemed a very nice and polite young boy.

“He didn’t speak much French but would always smile and say ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Au Revoir’.

“I saw him leave carrying a bag at the weekend. He looked OK. But I didn’t know why he left. It was only after I read about them in the newspaper that I learnt the truth.”

French prosecutors claim Alex knew his alternative life with his mum “had to stop” after she planned to move to Finland.

Last month, the boy also tried to enrol in a school in Quillan in Ariège but nobody worked out who he was and police took no action, French media claimed.

Toulouse assistant public prosecutor Antoine Leroy said Alex left the home and went walking for four days, covering around 15 miles by foot and skateboard.

He was sleeping in the day and walking at night, fuelled by eating “whatever he found in the fields and gardens”.

Mr Leroy added: “It is possible that the mother has gone to Finland as she planned. The grandfather, who has always been with his daughter and grandson, is said to have died around six months ago.”

Describing Alex’s lifestyle over the past six years, Mr Leroy said: “They would work on the ego, there was meditation work — there was no connection with the real world. They believed in reincarnation.”

Mr Leroy said Alex was tired but in good health, adding: “He’s said to be intelligent even though he’s never been to school in this period.

“He doesn’t describe any kind of physical violence, without talking about emotional violence. We can’t use the term ‘sect’ as such but he talks of a spiritual community.”

Mr Leroy suggested the group were fascinated by solar panels, and that Melanie has a fear of them.

He added: “They were travelling from house to house with solar panels. They only used car-sharing, they didn’t have their own vehicle.”

Alex is now finally reunited with his family after landing in the UK last night – six years after his mum and granddad allegedly kidnapped him while on holiday in Spain.

Meanwhile, French authorities are planning a crackdown on communities like those involved in Alex’s case.

PAAlex disappeared aged 11 while on holiday with mum Melanie and David in Malaga, Spain, in 2017[/caption]

PA:Press AssociationAlex’s mum Melanie and graddad David had moved the family between Spain, Morocco and Southern France since 2017[/caption]

PA:Press AssociationLocals in south west France said David Batty, the granddad of ‘abducted’ Brit teen Alex Batty, is not dead[/caption]

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