Alex Batty tells of his extraordinary escape for first time & says ‘Mum’s a great person, but she’s not a great mother’

Alex Batty tells of his extraordinary escape for first time & says ‘Mum’s a great person, but she’s not a great mother’

TEENAGER Alex Batty turned his back on a hippy lifestyle after clashing with his mother, saying: “She’s a great person and I love her but she’s just not a great mum.”

The 17-year-old’s yearning to be a normal youngster led to him hatching “Le Great Escape” from their rented home in the French Pyrenees.

Louis WoodAlex Batty today, six years after vanishing[/caption]

The SunThe missing teen ended six years on the run with a hastily scribbled note to his mum — realising ‘it was no way to live’[/caption]

The SunFed-up Alex told Melanie not to worry as he was capable of looking after himself[/caption]

Alex told how he walked out on mum Melanie, 43, and grandad David, 64, after six years of wandering across Europe, saying: “I had an argument with my mum and I just thought I’m gonna leave because I can’t live with her.”

Alex trekked for 22 miles over two days last week before a delivery driver spotted him carrying a skateboard at 3am and stopped.

He let the lad use his phone to message nan and legal guardian Susan Caruana, 68: “Hello grandma ils(sic) me alex please pick up”.

The driver then took Alex to a police station.

Last Saturday the teenager, who went missing aged 11 during a 2017 holiday to Spain, was reunited with Susan at her home in Oldham, Gtr Manchester.

He had recently persuaded Melanie to move to a rented farmhouse nearer civilisation rather than living in the mountains.

But Alex had grown tired of constantly moving homes and working alongside grandad David in exchange for food and rent.

During his six years away he made just one friend his own age — a Spanish girl he met in a cafe.

Alex never went to school for a single day. Instead he learned languages and studied maths and computing whenever he stumbled across a textbook.

The Manchester United fan first had doubts about the nomadic life his mum wanted when he was 14.

His feelings grew stronger around a year ago as he considered his dreams of becoming a computer software engineer.

Alex said: “I first started thinking about leaving when I was 14 or 15.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“It would always be the same whether it was France or Spain.

“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’.

“She wasn’t really open to any other opinions whereas grandad is more of a listener.

“He was always like, ‘I want you to do what’s best for you’.

“He kept on saying every time, the reason I came with you, is so that I could make sure that you were happy and healthy with a roof over your head.”

Alex says he last spent time with his grandad on Saturday, December 9 as they helped move to a rented property near Chalabre in the Aude region of southern France.

On Monday December 11, around midnight and with his mum in bed, Alex left the farmhouse.

He had filled a rucksack with four T-shirts, three pairs of trousers, socks, pants, a skateboard, a torch, 100 euros and a Swiss Army Knife.

His aim was to reach the nearest city, Toulouse 70 miles north.

But he was keen to ensure his mum and grandad were not tracked down by police as he feared they could be arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

So he invented a story about walking for four days through the mountains to put cops off the scent.

Alex, who used the name Zack Edwards in France, confessed: “I’ve been lying to try and protect my mum and grandad but I realise that they’re probably gonna get caught anyway.

“I pretended I had been on such a long journey for that reason.”

Alex first walked south towards the town of Quillan.

He spent a freezing Monday night outside with no food and drinking from mountain springs.

The youngster slept for a few hours in a woodland area next to the road before refuelling in ­Quillan on a tuna baguette.

Alex waited until around 6pm before leaving the town because he was worried his mum — a Huddersfield University law graduate — might pass him in her car as he walked back to Chalabre.

Explaining his plan, he said: “To try and be clever I walked to Quillan then back. I did that so when I talked about asking for directions in Quillan and getting lost, it was half true.

“I didn’t get lost. I knew exactly where I was going. I just wanted to circle back for that to be a true story. I’m a very competent walker. I knew my way around the area so I knew where there were open springs so I could get water.

“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 thought, ‘Oh Zack, what have you done’. Zack was the name I used when someone asked me.

“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.

“I told him my story and I don’t think he actually believed me so he just carried on with his work.

“He was delivering parcels so I helped him because it’s the least I could do. He let me use his phone to contact my grandma.

“After that he calls the police and a squad car nearby takes me to the nearest police station.

“I’m in f***ing bits on the floor because I’m thinking ‘S**t I shouldn’t have said anything’. They fingerprinted me about five different times and were sending photos to my grandma.

“Two gendarmes took me to another police station where I had a shower. I sat on the couch and relaxed a little bit until an English translator came.

“On Wednesday I spent the night at a foster home and I stayed there Thursday and Friday.

“On Friday they told me I could fly home without a passport and on Saturday I got to Toulouse airport and my other grandad was waiting for me with two police officers and my social worker. I was so happy to see him I gave him a big hug.”

Alex boarded a 5.04pm KLM flight to Amsterdam and connecting KLM flight 1081 which touched down in Manchester at 8.13pm.

Police then drove him to his gran’s. Alex added: “When I got back to Manchester it was raining as usual.

“I was driven back to my gran’s house and I walked in the door and she’s in the living room.

“I started shaking and just gave her a massive hug.

“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.”

Yesterday a judge ruled that Alex would remain under special legal protection as a ward of the court.

Gran Susan will care for him until he turns 18 in two months.

Louis WoodAlex hugs gran Susan who was yesterday awarded care of him until he turns 18[/caption]

The SunMore of Alex’s pics show him on David’s shoulders[/caption]

PAAlex before he went missing[/caption]

The SunAlex’s message to his gran from France[/caption]

How hol turned to getaway

ALEX Batty left England for a week’s holiday with his mum and grandad – and came back 2,269 days later.

Here’s how it happened:

SEPT 30, 2017: flew to Malaga and stayed in a luxury Marbella villa owned by a friend of Melanie’s.

OCT 7: trio hitched a ride 400 miles north to Benifairo de la Valldigna, near Valencia. They settle by Gandia.

AUTUMN 2021: they drive a campervan to France with no ID.

Alex and David stay at Gite de La Bastide, 25 miles east of Quillan. Melanie lives at a Camon site about an hour’s drive away.

DECEMBER: Alex and David join Melanie.

JANUARY 2022: they move to a campsite in Balesta.

MAY-SEPT 2023: in Montbel but Melanie also travels around France, leaving Alex with his grandad.

OCT: move to the Garden of Eden site near Villefort.

DEC 11: Alex walks out of a rented house they are staying in near Chalabre, leaving a goodbye note.

DEC 13: he is picked up at 3am walking along a road near the Ariege La Pibola campsite.

DEC 16: Alex returns to his gran’s home in Oldham.

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