Alex Batty breaks silence in first interview since return from France to reveal he left after fall-out with mother and MADE UP mountains trek escape tale as he says: ‘She’s not a great mother’

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Alex was reunited with family Saturday evening after landing in Manchester 

British teenager Alex Batty says the parent who made him leave the UK is ‘a great person… but not a great mother ‘ as he spoke in his first interview since his French Pyrenees escape.

The 17-year-old made his escape in the dead of night because he wanted to lead a normal life after six years of wandering across Europe, and had enough of the hippy’ pain in the a** lifestyle’ he led with his mother.

He added that his mother would often leave him for long stretches of time – up to seven months – and held ‘anti-government’ beliefs, including that many people are ‘slaves’. 

He walked for 22 miles over two days before a delivery driver spotted him carrying a skateboard at 3am and stopped for him, concerned.

The teenager used the driver’s phone to contact his legal guardian – his grandmother Susan Caruana, 68 – and said in a text ‘please pick up’, The Sun reported.

Alex, who returned to the UK on Saturday, was 11 when he went missing in Spain  in 2017 and had been reportedly living an itinerant lifestyle until he approached the driver while walking in southern France and he went to local authorities.

Alex Batty spoke out about how he escaped in the dead of night and walked for miles

Alex, from Oldham, was 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain

Alex, from Oldham, was 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain

His mother and alleged kidnapper, 48-year-old Melanie Batty, remains on the run. 

Alex, who never went to school while living with his mother, dreamed of becoming a software engineer.

He walked out on his mother and his grandfather, David, after an argument.

Alex told The Sun: ‘I had an argument with my mum and I just thought I’m gonna leave because I can’t live with her.’

He added: ‘She’s a good person. But she’s just not a great mom. She just doesn’t do motherly things that you’re supposed to do. She’s not very warm and open.’

The teenager had convinced his mother to move to a rented farmhouse rather than living in the mountains. 

He was weary of constantly moving house and working in exchange for food and boarding, and said he only made one friend his own age during his six years away – a Spanish girl he met in a cafe.

He said he learned languages by himself and studied maths and computing from textbooks but didn’t attend school.

Alex said he first had doubts about their alternative lifestyle when he was 14 and began considering his goals for the future.

He told The Sun: ‘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.

A tent inside woodland at the 'Garden of Eden' 'spiritual community' near Chalabre

A tent inside woodland at the ‘Garden of Eden’ ‘spiritual community’ near Chalabre

Alex flew to Malaga in September 2017 before being taken to a ‘spiritual community’ in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Investigators believe Alex escaped the rural community in southern France and spent days trekking across the French Pyrenees before being picked up by a trucker who took him to a police station in Revel, near Toulouse

Alex Batty (pictured left) with his mother Melanie and grandfather David six years ago

Alex Batty (pictured left) with his mother Melanie and grandfather David six years ago

‘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.

‘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’.

The 17-year-old escaped on Monday December 11 at around midnight, when his mother was asleep in bed.

Carrying only a skateboard and a rucksack filled with clothes and essentials, he set off for the nearest city –  Toulouse, 70 miles away.

He packed four T-shirts, three pairs of trousers, socks, pants, a torch, 100 euros and a Swiss Army Knife.

He left a note for his mother, which read: ‘Hey mum, I want you to know I love you very much. I am very thankful for the life that you provided for me over the past few years.

The Garden of Eden Spiritual community, where Melanie Batty was living

The Garden of Eden Spiritual community, where Melanie Batty was living

Gite de la Bastide in the part of the Pyrenees where teenager Alex was living

Gite de la Bastide in the part of the Pyrenees where teenager Alex was living

‘Don’t worry about yourselves – I’m sure you won’t get found. Don’t worry about me either. You know I can take care of myself.

‘I love you very much. Don’t be too mad with me. Love Alex.’ 

The teenager was worried about his mother and grandfather being arrested on suspicion of his abduction, so he lied to those he met on the road.

Alex – who used the alias Zack Edwards in France – made up a story about spending four days walking through the mountains.

The 17-year-old spent his first night sleeping outside in the cold in a woodland, drinking from mountain springs.

When he arrived at the town of Quillan, he bought a tuna baguette to eat. But he waited until 6pm to leave because he was worried his mother might pass in her car.

He said he tried to be ‘clever’ and walked from Quillan back to Chalabre, asking for directions and telling those he met that he was lost.

But he said ‘I knew exactly where I was going’.

Speaking about the moment he was picked up by the driver, he told The Sun: ‘I slept outside on the ground. It was freezing. If I needed the toilet I used leaves and grass.

The now 17-year-old is 'fearful of the glare of publicity' since returning to the UK

The now 17-year-old is ‘fearful of the glare of publicity’ since returning to the UK

‘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 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.’

The distraught teenager said he was ‘in bits on the floor’ when he was brought to the police station, worried he had said too much.

He said the police took his fingerprints ‘about five different times’ and sent photos of him to his grandmother.

From Wednesday to Friday, he spent the night at a foster home, and then he was told he could fly home.

When he arrived at Toulouse airport, his other grandfather was waiting with two police officers and a social worker. 

Alex said ‘I was so happy to see him, I gave him a big hug’. 

At 5pm, he boarded a flight to Amsterdam and then a connecting flight to Manchester touched down at 8.13pm.

Describing the moment he reunited with his grandmother, he said he was ‘shaking’ and gave her a ‘massive hug’.

 He added: ‘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.’

Alex believes his mother – who is using the fake name of Rose – plans to travel to Finland to see the Northern Lights. 

He said she would often abandon him to go off with her friends, leaving him with his grandfather – once for an entire seven month period.

The teenager said she held strong anti-government, ‘anti-vax’ views and believed a lot of people were ‘slaves’.

In contrast, his grandfather David would always listen to his concerns about their life.

Fondly referring to him as ‘Grandad Batty’ he said David along with his step-father ‘raised’ him and he saw them as father figures.

It was previously reported that Alex will remain under special legal protection as he builds his new life in the UK.

Represented by lawyers at a hearing at a Family Court hearing at Manchester Civil Courts of Justice, it was heard he is ‘fearful of the glare of publicity’.

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