Bones of Emile, 2, found in area already searched near Alps hamlet

A hiker made the discovery and took the partial remains to a police station

The bones of Emile Soleil were found on Saturday, March 30

Police say bones of two-year old Emile Soleil, which were found by a hiker near the hamlet where he went missing in the French Alps, were discovered in an area which had been extensively searched last year.

The discovery was made on Saturday (March 30) around one kilometre from where the toddler went missing. The hiker reportedly took the remains to a local police station and genetic testing concluded that they belong to Emile.

It has not been clarified why she chose to do this and not call police to the scene.

The boy was last seen by neighbours walking along a path in the 125-resident commune of Le Vernet, near Digne-les-Bains (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) 1,200 metres high in the Alps at around 17:15 on July 8, 2023. He had been staying with his grandparents for a family reunion at their holiday home there.

It was not viewed as unusual [that Emile was walking alone] as children would often be seen in the village, the local mayor said at the time.

“This heartbreaking news was feared,” said his parents in a statement released by their lawyer, Jérôme Triomphe.

Police now studying different hypotheses

Colonel Marie-Laure Pezant, spokeswoman for the national gendarmerie, said the area where the bones - thought to include the skull - were found had been extensively searched at the time of the boy’s disappearance.

She told FranceInfo that there was only "a very small chance" that the gendarmes could have missed his body.

She said investigations were now concentrating on different hypotheses, including:

  • the body had somehow been missed during police searches
  • severe weather conditions had modified the soil and moved the remains
  • the bones had been brought to the area afterwards, whether by a person or by an animal.

On Thursday (March 28), 17 people were summoned by the courts to take part in a reconstruction of the moment when the boy was last seen although there is not thought to be any link with the discovery.

Area sealed off for further investigation

The area has been sealed and specialist dog teams have been deployed to search again where the remains were found.

Colonel Pezant said that elements in the soil may allow them to determine whether a body has been on the ground for a certain length of time.

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