Police in France reportedly fear that a missing toddler may have been hit by farming machinery while walking through long grass. Émile, aged two, was staying with his grandparents at Haut-Vernet, an Alpine hamlet south of Grenoble, when he vanished on July 8.
While the search for the toddler has now been called off, Prosecutor Remy Avon said on yesterday (Monday, July 18) that police continue to “investigate causes of the worrying disappearance”. Some scenarios – such as a bird of prey or wolf attack – have been ruled out by investigators.
But police are now reportedly investigating if the boy may have been hit by an agricultural machine. It comes after a local farmer suggested it was a possible scenario.
The farmer told BFMTV: “Sometimes we find deer. The little one may have ended up in the tall grass and been hit by a farm machine. That would be terrible.”
Around 20 houses have been searched in the hunt for Émile, And hundreds of gendarmes, police and volunteers had been involved in a huge search operation, beating fields and bushes, and examining them from the air.
Local prosecutor Rémy Avon said that the “physical search” had been stopped because there was “no sign” of Émile. However, he said: “The judicial investigation into the causes of the disappearance will continue, in particular by analysing the considerable mass of information and elements collected over the past four days.”
The possibilities that Émile had been murdered, kidnapped, or got involved in an accident were all being looked at, said Avon. “All these theories are active. Nothing has been ruled out.”
On Friday, local mayor Francois Belique said “the probabilities and the rationality would lead us to believe that we are dealing with an accident”. However, the mayor also said the best hope for the missing toddler now is that “he’s been kidnapped and is alive”.
“Our only hope now is that he’s been taken and is alive. It’s the last thing we can hope for and it’s already terrible,” said Belique.
“We could consider that someone wanting to cause harm to a child passed by the area, that he saw this beautiful little boy and took him away. He couldn’t survive alone in the wild, that’s for sure.”