Death of Emile, 2: what is known about new bone found in Alps hamlet?

Additional searches have been carried out after Emile’s clothes and skull were found

Another bone belonging to Emile has been found, after the discovery of his skull
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Another bone belonging to Emile Soleil, the two-year-old boy who went missing from a hamlet in the Alps, has been found after new searches were conducted following the discovery of the boy’s skull.

The bone was discovered on April 3, it has emerged. Gendarmerie found it in an area of Le Haut-Vernet, the 25-inhabitant hamlet above Le Vernet (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) from which Emile went missing on July 8 last year.

It comes after a hiker discovered the boy’s skull and teeth in a very steep mountain trail area, at the intersection of several relatively-popular hiking paths. She took part of the bones to a local gendarmerie. The piece was quickly DNA tested by criminal research centre l’Institut de recherche criminelle de la gendarmerie nationale (IRCGN), and revealed to belong to Emile.

Since then, some of the boy’s clothes that he was wearing on the day he disappeared have also been found - around 150 metres away. His T-shirt, shoes, and underpants were found scattered “over several dozen metres”, police have said. Later, this new piece of bone was found.

The IRCGN confirmed on Monday, April 8 that this latest piece also belongs to Emile. Analysis is still ongoing on some other bones, and a tooth. 

‘Small piece of bone’

“A small piece of bone belonging to Emile was indeed found in the same area as the clothes, below the skull,” confirmed Aix-en-Provence public prosecutor Jean-Luc Blachon.

Around 100 gendarmerie and investigators are still on-site, along with around 10-12 search specialists. They are searching specific areas around the skull discovery location.

Does the bone add any new information?

Not so far. Mr Blachon added that this discovery did not necessarily move the case forwards in any way, with the circumstances of Emile’s disappearance still not ascertained.

"Between a fall, manslaughter, and murder, we still cannot favour one hypothesis over another," he said on April 2, in his first appearance before the press since the discovery of the skull and teeth.

Gendarmerie spokeswoman Marie-Laure Pezant said on April 1 that there is currently no way of knowing if the bones and clothes were “brought there by a human being, an animal, or weather”. 

The discovery area had previously been searched by human patrols, infrared cameras, and sniffer dogs, but nothing had been found. Ms Pezant said that the chance of searches missing the evidence - if it was there at the time - was “very small”, but Mr Blachon later said that this was still a possibility.

What happens now? 

Investigations are continuing, although no sniffer dogs or other search methods are being used so far. 

Searches are expected to continue until Monday, April 15 at least. Le Haut-Vernet is still closed to all outsiders.