Alex Batty, who turns 18 on Tuesday, admits mum Melanie and grandad David will not risk contacting him for fear of giving away where they are while facing an international child abduction probe
Alex Batty has told of his life back in the UK after six years on the run in Europe. He revealed he hopes his mum and grandad do not get caught after taking him abroad.
Alex, 18 on Tuesday, said: “Mum did it out of love. It feels good to be back.” But there will still be two notable absentees from the birthday celebrations… both mum Melanie and grandad David. The pair are still on the run following his shock reappearance last year after he went missing with them at the age of 11.
And Alex admits Melanie, 43, and 64-year-old David will not risk contacting him for fear of giving away where they are while facing an international child abduction probe.
But he says he has no issue with their silence as he does not want the police to find them.
Alex said: “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. I know they’re not going to get in contact. They’re definitely not going to risk it. If they get in contact, it’ll be when they’re 100% sure they’re all right. They won’t rush it for my birthday.
“I hope the police don’t find them. 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.”
Alex went missing in 2017 after Melanie and David failed to return him from a holiday abroad. They embarked on an “alternative” nomadic lifestyle, regularly moving around Spain and France.
Alex finally escaped life on the road on December 13, after having an argument with his mum and leaving the isolated farmhouse in the French Pyrenees where they were living.
He handed himself in at a police station near Toulouse, 70 miles north, having been picked up by a delivery driver while wandering a country road near Chalabre at 3am. He had also been spotted at a French diner.
Chatting at the home he now shares with gran Susan Caruana, 68 – Melanie’s mum and David’s ex-wife – in Oldham, Gtr Manchester, Alex tells how he is readapting to UK life and has started a computer programming course.
He is celebrating his birthday in style. He has had a pub meal with his gran, her new husband, uncle and cousin, and then a bar crawl tonight. Alex has already enjoyed one boozy night celebrating his return, downing vodka and lemonades that left him nursing a three-day hangover.
He also admitted he has his eye on future romance and has already enjoyed several dates. Like many a typical British teenager, Alex is now planning on getting his first tattoo. He said: “I’m thinking of getting a rose tattooed under my left ear.
“But I might get something in a more hidden area for job purposes.”
Rose was the alias his mum adopted shortly after taking him on the run, and many might consider the tattooing a tacit message of support. But Alex insists the design had no connection – saying “it’s for a completely different reason” before refusing to be drawn further.
He called himself Zack Edwards during those incognito years. Alex said: “We decided to change names after about three months in Spain. Mum said, ‘Let’s change names.’
“It took me about three hours to decide on Zack. I thought it was cool. I was going to call myself Magnus after a character on a TV show called Shadowhunters but I didn’t think it suited me. It feels strange telling people my name is Alex again. The first time I made my email after getting back with the name Alex felt really strange.”
Life has not been without its challenges since Alex’s return. He still thinks and speaks in French – especially when angry – and revealed it felt odd socialising with youngsters after six years of not attending a single day of school and being isolated from other children.
He admitted: “I’ve found it difficult since I got back talking to people my age. I’ve been around adults since I was 11 and spent all my time talking to them, so I call people my own age ‘kids’. It’s engraved in me. It still doesn’t feel real that I’m back. It’s still not really sunk in. I think it’ll probably hit me sometime soon, but it hasn’t yet.”
Despite his easy-going nature and grown-up attitude, it is clear Alex had a different childhood from his peers.
He said: “We lived in 15 different places during the six years. I can remember all of them. We started off in Spain, staying around the Valencia region for three years.
“We were in a village called Villalonga in the Gandia region. It was a nice village.
“Then we moved to the Arias region for about two and a half years and stayed at different campsites and houses. Our last place was the farmhouse in La Bastide. It was very isolated and we had no car, so it was difficult.”
During his six years away, he says he made just one friend his own age, a Spanish girl he met in a cafe.
He’s now plotting a summer holiday to go partying with her and added: “When we were moving around I wasn’t really aware of much in the outside world.
“We were in the mountains a lot, so it was hard to have internet and when we did it was usually very bad. The last farmhouse we were in had decent internet, so I’d watch YouTube, but I didn’t do social media and I’d never take photos of myself [or] of my mum or grandad because we always worried about being found.
“If any were ever taken I’d be trying to move my head to the side to avoid the camera.” Alex initially misled French police, claiming he had been walking for four days, to cover up Melanie and David’s whereabouts. He also falsely claimed David had died six months earlier.
He has since been interviewed by British officers. He said: “I’ve been raised to hate cops, so to be honest to co-operate with them is strange.”
Alex now dreams of becoming a computer software engineer and wants to buy a house then get married and start a family.
Hinting at a possible future romance, he said coyly: “I’m talking to someone at the moment.
“I want to get a decent job so that when I get a wife and kids, they won’t have to worry about money like I did. “It feels really good to be back.
“I’ve had a lot of new experiences. Pretty much everything is a new experience at the moment.
“I don’t miss much about being in France or Spain. None of it was good.
“The only thing I miss is that because we were so isolated, I could listen to music blasting while singing along to it and no one would be bothered by it.”