‘Off-grid’ commune where Alex Batty lived with mum’s ‘goddess-worshipping pals’

A teenager who has been found six years after he initially went missing was living in an "off-the-grid" community.

Alex Batty was just 11 when he vanished after a family trip to Marbella, Spain. He hadn't been seen since October 2017 when he was found alive and well on Thursday (December 14), the Daily Star previously reported.

The boy, now 17, was picked up by a lorry driver after trekking for several days through the Pyrenees mountains in France. It is believed he made the epic journey to escape a "spiritual" commune where he had been living since his disappearance.

READ MORE: Alex Batty: Everything we know about missing Brit boy found in France after six years

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The remote society is located in the Pyrenean valleys and is "cut off and has no schools," according to sources. A police source told the BBC members of the cultish group travelled from place to place and lived in caravans or tents.

Some of Alex's Facebook friends appear to be living off-grid and can be seen practicing meditation and rituals. Posts on the social network by the teen's pals see them refer to "Gaia," the Greek earth goddess who they credit with the creation of "sustainable and abundant communities."

Alex reportedly didn't make reference to the group's practices in conversations with police but did describe "a life in community" with his mother and grandfather, local news outlet La Depeche reported.

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Simone Risch, president of Infos Sectes – a nonprofit organisation that researches "groups, their ideologies and their structures" and provides help to those involved – told The Sun: "The break with society, children out of school, social isolation and life in self-sufficiency are often the beginnings of a shift towards a sectarian movement.

"If the choice of an alternative and itinerant lifestyle does not in itself constitute a sectarian drift, we must still remain vigilant about the evolution of these organisations."

Alex, originally from Oldham, Manchester, is understood to be mostly cooperating with prosecutors investigating his case but hasn't told them where he has been living for the last six years.

A French police spokesman said: "We can confirm that the young man who has been found is Alex Batty. He is well and providing information."

Meanwhile the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement: "We are supporting a British national in France and are in contact with local authorities."

Alex was found in Revel, near Toulouse in France's southern Occitanie region after the lorry driver who picked him up became concerned for him and called police. The child was with his mother Melanie Batty and grandfather David Batty, then 37 and 58 respectively, when he vanished.

It is thought Alex's mother is living in the commune he escaped from.

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