Investigators identify remains of toddler who disappeared in French Alps in 2023

French investigators have found and identified the "bones" of a toddler whose disappearance last summer in a tiny village in the French Alps shocked the nation, a prosecutor said Sunday.

The discovery is the first major breakthrough in the case of two-and-a-half-year-old Emile, who vanished on July 8 last year while staying with his grandparents.

Two neighbours last saw him in the late afternoon walking alone on a street in Le Vernet, at an altitude of 1,200 metres (4,000 feet) in the French Alps.

"On Saturday, the police was informed of the discovery of bones near the hamlet of Le Vernet," prosecutor Jean-Luc Blachon said.

Genetic testing allowed them "to conclude on Sunday that they were the bones of the child Emile," he added.

The prosecutor did not give a cause of death, but said that forensic investigators were continuing to analyse the bones.

"The police is deploying means to carry out additional searches in the area where they were found," he added.

A source close to the case said a walker had spotted the remains.

When he disappeared, Emile had just arrived the day before to stay with his maternal grandparents in their secondary home for the holidays.

The little boy, barely 90 centimetres (35 inches) tall, was wearing a yellow T-shirt, white shorts and tiny hiking shoes, a call for witnesses at the time said.

Massive search

A massive on-the-ground search involving dozens of police officers and soldiers, sniffer dogs, a helicopter and drones failed to find the little boy in July.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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