Chilling parallels between missing child in France and BBC drama

Chilling parallels between the disappearance of Emile and The Missing: Little boy wandered off while out of sight for just a moment… and is feared to have been run over and snatched by driver just like BBC drama

  • Emile was last seen July 8 when he disappeared from grandparents’ rural home
  • One police spokesman said he was likely ‘removed’ from the area of the search

The sudden disappearance of a two-year-old from a countryside hamlet in southern France has given rise to theories he was killed – and that the circumstances of his death closely resemble the plot of an acclaimed BBC drama. 

Emile, who usually lives with his parents near Marseille, was last seen three days ago by two people as he left his grandparents’ home. He was on holiday with the elderly couple in the rural Haut Vernet of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region.

After days of thorough searches involving 800 gendarmes, firefighters, volunteers, helicopters, thermic camera drones, and sniffer dogs one gendarmerie spokesperson bluntly said yesterday: ‘Either the body was concealed after an accident, or it was removed’.

His comments sparked wild speculation – and one prevailing theory draws a dark comparison with hit BBC drama The Missing, starring James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor, in which a young boy vanishes while on holiday with his family in France. 

The child is presumed kidnapped, but turns out to have been run over and thrown unconscious into the boot of a car by a driver who thinks he is dead.

Some have speculated that Emile may have been hit by a car on the small, unsighted country roads of Haut Vernet, and that his panicked killer may have taken away his body after accidentally running him down.

French gendarmes are briefed before taking part in a search operation for two-and-a-half-year-old Emile who has been missing since July 8

This handout picture obtained on July 9, 2023 from French ‘Gendarmerie Nationale’ twitter account shows a call for witnesses for Emile, a missing boy, who disappeared on July 8, 2023 in Le Vernet, southeastern France

One prevailing theory on Emile’s disappearance draws a dark comparison with hit BBC drama The Missing, starring James Nesbitt (left) and Frances O’Connor, in which young boy Oliver (played by Oliver Hunt) vanishes while on holiday with his family in France

James Nesbitt in The Missing, 2014

Nesbitt and O’Connor starred in the first series of the show (2014) as a couple struggling to come to terms eight years after their son’s abduction during the 2006 World Cup.

In a shock twist it was revealed that missing boy Ollie was not abducted, but had been bundled ‘lifeless’ into a car by a hit-and-run driver who thought he’d killed the child.

The boy’s mother accepts he is dead but the father relentlessly continues his search for Ollie because a body is never found. 

He becomes a man obsessed and is sucked into a years-long search for his missing son, fracturing his marriage and sending him to the brink of self-destruction.

The theory has been fuelled by French police’s admission they have ‘no clues’ as to how the boy disappeared, as well as reports that officials are indeed investigating whether Emile could have been ‘hit by car or a tractor’, and his body taken away.

‘If he was alive and hidden, we would also have found him given the means that were deployed,’ a spokesperson said. 

The gendarme added that a region of several square kilometres around Emile’s grandparents’ house was combed through, and said the boy must have been taken away from the area because sniffer dogs would have found a body in the region by now.

‘It is obvious that, after 48 hours, we have switched to another dimension. Hearings are underway,’ the gendarmerie spokesperson said, referring to interviews being carried out with ‘residents and potential witnesses’.

Emile was last seen walking down the street of his grandparents’ house – located in a remote mountain outpost with only two dozen inhabitants – by two witnesses on Saturday afternoon, a prosecutor said.

Police and gendarmes have entered every building of the settlement. Some 500 volunteers have also helped with the search, looking for Emile in the forests and fields that surround the village, the local prefect’s office said on Twitter.

‘At this point, we don’t have any clues allowing us to follow any particular theory (on his whereabouts)’, the local public prosecutor told franceinfo radio.

French authorities at the weekend opened a telephone hotline and released a photograph of the boy, a yellow flower tucked behind his ear.

Portrait of a dejected gendarme amid the search for little Emile

On Tuesday morning, airborne searchers were given a recording of the mother’s voice to play ‘as loud as possible’ from speakers on the aircraft.

‘Their hope is that Emile will be hidden in the countryside, and will come out when he hears his mother’s voice coming from a helicopter,’ said an emergency services source.

‘Emile was always chasing butterflies, and could have got a long way away, before hiding somewhere for a nap,’ the source added.

In the hope of finding any possible leads, police are also speaking to Emile’s devout Catholic mother, who has appealed for prayers for her son and his safe return. 

Police are also exploring another hypothesis that Emile could have been kidnapped – despite ruling out any suggestion that he was abducted just 24 hours ago. 

‘He is two-and-a-half years old, he was able to walk quite a distance. But, all the hunts we have done for the past two days should have allowed us to locate him,’ said Marc Chappuis, the police officer in charge of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence where Emile went missing on Saturday afternoon.

With regard to treating the disappearance as a kidnapping, Avon, the public prosecutor told the same press conference: ‘All the hypotheses remain valid, none is favoured or excluded.’

‘We are committed to carrying out investigations on all levels’.

After three days, the two-year-old is still nowhere to be found after police carried out searches of the 20 or so houses in the small Alpine hamlet.

As fears grow, the public prosecutor stressed that as of yet ‘no element characterises a criminal offence likely to be at the origin of this disappearance.’

‘From the moment there is no offence, there is no person implicated,’ he repeated.

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