Almost nine months after two-year-old Émile disappeared without a trace in France, there is sad certainty: the boy is dead. A walker came across bones near the mountain village of Le Vernet in southern France on the Easter weekend. The investigators’ genetic analysis revealed that these were the bones of Émile, who had been missing since the beginning of July, as the Aix-en-Provence public prosecutor’s office announced. “Even though this heartbreaking news was feared, now is the time for mourning, devotion and prayer,” the little one’s parents said through their lawyer. “Pain and sorrow remain.”

Great sympathy for the Émile case: “Everyone is deeply shocked”

The mysterious disappearance of young Émiles and the search for him deeply moved France. Interest in the case remains enormous. After the bones were found, Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin said on LCI that he was very sad. “I think we’re all really shocked.”

Two and a half year old Émile had been on holiday with his grandparents in the southern French town of Le Vernet when they lost sight of him towards the evening on July 8th. A number of other relatives were also staying with the grandparents at the time. Two witnesses said they saw the toddler running down a street.

In the days and weeks after the boy’s disappearance, the police repeatedly searched the area with a large number. Corpse detection dogs also combed the area. The investigators searched apartments in the small village with just 125 residents. Just last Thursday, the remote location was cordoned off to recreate the day of the disappearance. The investigators are investigating kidnapping and deprivation of liberty, but have not ruled out an accident.

Mystery about the location of the bones

Today special forces are in the mountain village again to search the wooded area where the passer-by found the bones. Dog squads, forensic pathologists and anthropologists were also on duty. The area around the site was cordoned off. The town hall banned strangers from entering the upper part of the village of Haut-Vernet, where the grandparents’ house is located. According to media reports, the child’s skull was found. According to the newspaper Le Parisien, the bones are incomplete.

The location near the village is a mystery. The area had been searched several times in the past few months. The area is difficult to access and there is a small chance that the bones were overlooked, said Gendarmerie spokeswoman Marie-Laure Pezant on CNews. However, it is also conceivable that the bones only arrived at the site later, for example due to a person, an animal or the weather.

No information yet on the cause of death

It was initially not known how Émile died. “The next 48 hours will be crucial,” the broadcaster BFMTV quoted a source from investigative circles as saying on Sunday, referring to the cause of the child’s death. The bones will be further examined.

Émile’s family was reportedly informed of the bone discovery on Sunday morning. In the fall, Émile’s mother sent a voice message to everyone who knew anything about her child’s disappearance on the occasion of the boy’s birthday. “Tell us, out of mercy, where Émile is!” she said. “Give him back to us!”