Home World Death of toddler remains mystery despite bones found nine months after disappearance

Death of toddler remains mystery despite bones found nine months after disappearance


The circumstances around the death of a toddler remain a mystery, despite his body being found nine months after he went missing.

Émile Soleil’s disappeared from Haut-Vernet in France last July. It went unexplained for almost a year until police returned to re-enact the incident.

The two-and-a-half-year-old was at his grandparent’s holiday home when he disappeared, having been dropped off by his parents. 

He vanished from the Alpine hamlet on the slopes of the Massif des Trois-Evêchés mountain range. Only 25 people live in the village and his parents were not there.

The last sighting of Émile, wearing a yellow t-shirt and white shorts, was at 5.15pm on July 8 when two neighbours saw him walking by himself in the only street in the village but then said they had “lost sight of him”.

His grandmother later alerted police he was missing and hundreds joined police with sniffer dogs to look for him over the next few days.

Émile’s disappearance became a criminal inquiry into a potential abduction, though there were no leads into what happened.

The toddler’s mother made a public appeal in November, on what would have been his third birthday. She begged for him to be brought home, whether he was alive or dead.

On March 28, police, Émile’s family, neighbours and witnesses reconstructed what had happened that day.

Two days later, a women hiking just over a kilometre away found some bones in an area police said had been searched a number of times. The DNA matched Émile’s.

Local prosecutors did not specify which bones had been found but they are understood to include Émile’s skull and some teeth.

Marie-Laure Pezant, a spokeswoman for the gendarmerie said the bones could have been placed there by a person or even an animal, or could have been shifted by changing weather.

Sniffer dogs have been searching the area for more remains with dozens of police guarding the site to prevent a potential crime scene being contaminated in any way by more hikers.

Local Mayor François Balique said he was very sad at the discovery and his thoughts were with Émile’s parents. “It will take a long time to recover from this disappearance and death,” he told French radio.

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