A drone and dogs are back to search for missing boy, 2, in France

Emile disappeared from the hamlet more than three weeks ago, with no trace seen of him since

A Gendarmerie-issued photo of Emile, age 2
Emile is still missing more than three weeks after he disappeared
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A drone and sniffer dogs are once again being used in the search for missing two-year-old Emile, who disappeared from a hamlet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence more than three weeks ago.

Seven gendarmerie dogs and at least one drone are now searching in and around the area, which is part of the small village of Le Vernet.

It comes after previous sniffer dog, drone, and helicopter infrared searches had been called off, days after the boy first went missing. Gendarmerie said they were doing a ‘final sweep’ of the area on July 13.

After that, prosecutors said the inquiry would focus on evidence gathered and other data, including phone records. However, searches have now resumed.

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The village is still off-limits to outsiders in a bid to control who leaves and enters the area. Mayor François Balique told Le Figaro yesterday that he would take a decision on whether to re-open the village again “by the end of this afternoon”.

An initial inquiry into Emile’s disappearance remains open at the Digne-les-Bains prosecutor’s office.

No kidnapping alert has been issued for the boy, and police have so far neither confirmed nor denied that they are pursuing any particular lead. No sign of the boy has been found since he went missing.

Emile, who usually lives with his parents in Bouches-du-Rhône, initially disappeared on July 8 at around 17:00, while he was playing in his maternal grandparents’ garden. The large family, who had been staying with the grandparents for a holiday, was busy packing the car for a family outing when the boy went missing.

It was initially thought that Emile, who often went walking with the group, had wandered away from the property on his own, as some witnesses reported seeing him close by at around that time. This was not considered unusual in the small, close-knit hamlet.

However, no trace of him has been found since.

Mayor Mr Balique has said he believes “there was intervention from an adult”. He told the regional newspaper La Dépêche du Midi: “It was maybe a car driving through too quickly. And the driver, instead of reacting normally, panicked.

“I am sure that the body is not in the commune, we’ve turned everything upside down. He has been moved. There was intervention by an adult, whether he’s alive or dead.”

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