French police are today searching a final plot of land for a two-year-old French boy who disappeared five days ago while on holiday with his grandparents.
More than 50 police officers are searching an area in the alpine hamlet of Le Vernet in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence for any clues as to where the missing baby Emile may be. According to local media reports, the operation may continue till 4 pm today.
The final bid to find the little boy comes when it emerges that the blood found on the front of a car in the village where Emil disappeared five days ago is not human.
Detectives sent the blood sample for scientific analysis to see if it could be linked to missing baby Emile but found it came from an animal, CNews reported.
The search for a final plot of land today is perhaps the last hope for his heartbroken family to find him after detectives announced they would abandon the search for the boy.
Emile was playing in the garden of his grandparents’ home in the village of Le Vernet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence on Saturday afternoon when he went missing.
The large-scale search for Emile – which involved 800 emergency workers, helicopters, thermal camera drones and sniffer dogs – was called off last night, with local prosecutor Rémy Avon saying there was ‘no sign’ of the French boy.
Detectives will now focus on analyzing existing evidence during their extensive four-day investigation.
A judicial source working on the case said police officials are also looking into the French family’s background.
But he added: ‘The judicial investigation into the reasons for the disappearance will continue, particularly by analyzing the substantial amount of information and material collected over the last four days.’
He said possibilities that Emile was murdered, abducted or involved in an accident were all being looked into.
‘All these theories are active,’ said Mr Avon. ‘Nothing has been ruled out.’
Investigators also confirmed that Emile’s parents’ home in the southern town of La Bouilladis near Marseille was searched by police on Monday.
He said the parents had been at home for a year, along with Emil and his baby sister, who was born earlier this year.
‘They are a very traditional family – high Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass to the modern one,’ the source said. ‘Parents are enthusiastic about sacred church music.’
Police revealed that at least ten members of the family were in the Vernet house at the time of Emile’s disappearance.
A police source said: ‘The child was having a family reunion with several uncles and aunts of all ages, including some minors. Emil was seen with other children on Saturday morning.’
Yesterday, residents of the French countryside of Haute Vernet where the boy disappeared on Saturday referred to their home as the cursed ‘cursed village’ because of its links to the disaster.
A judicial source working on the case said, ‘The gendarmes were looking into the family’s background
Police revealed that at least 10 family members were in the Vernet house when Emile went missing
In March 2015, Vernet was besieged after a horrific plane crash that killed 150 people, including two children.
The Germanwings Airbus A320 was intentionally brought down by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies.
Many Vernet residents participated in high mountain searches for possible survivors at the time, opening their homes to family and friends of those killed in the disaster.
In 2008, local café manager Jeannette Grosos, who ran Café du Moulin, was brutally murdered by a customer.
And the kind of phone-tracing methods police are now using to find Emile helped trap the killers of British peer Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, in the nearby countryside in 2005.
He disappeared in France in November 2004, before his lifeless body was found at the bottom of a ravine in the foothills of the Alps near Cannes.
The phone triangle later placed his estranged wife, Jamila M’Barek, and his brother, Mohamed M’Barek, in the area, both of whom were later convicted of Lord Shaftesbury’s murder.
But French police admitted they had ‘no leads’ in the ongoing search for two-year-old Emile, searching haystacks and checking local phone records as they tried to find the boy, who had been missing since Saturday.
A Vernet resident said on Wednesday: ‘Everyone is saying it – Vernet feels like a cursed village.’
Police vans are seen arriving in the area to continue the search for Emil
Emile, who usually lives with his parents near Marseille, was last seen by two men when he left his grandparents’ home. He was on vacation with an old couple.
Speaking at a press conference late yesterday, public prosecutor Remi Avon told reporters: ‘At the moment we have no clues, no information, no material that can help us understand this disappearance’.
He assured the press that the ‘investigation is continuing’, but stressed that there had been no progress since Sunday.
‘We are in the same position as yesterday after receiving two testimonies’, Avon said. ‘We are really taking the investigation as far as possible on the ground’.
Avon previously said that in addition to the physical search, investigators were also looking at details such as local phone records showing ‘what phone calls were made, by whom and to whom’ at the time of the disappearance, as well as which mobile phones were connected to local towers.
‘All possible explanations are on the table, we’re not biased, and we’re not ruling any out,’ Avon said.
In a chilling echo of BBC drama The Missing, police said the child may have died and her killer may have taken her body after accidentally hitting her ‘with a car or tractor’.
According to Le Parisien, investigators received 1,200 calls after calling for witnesses.
After days of thorough searches involving 800 gendarmes, firefighters, volunteers, helicopters, thermal camera drones and sniffer dogs, police admitted they had to consider other possibilities.
‘Either the body was hidden after an accident, or it was removed’, a gendarmerie spokesman said, adding that sniffer dogs would have found a body in the area by now.
‘It was clear that, after 48 hours, we had switched to another dimension. The hearing is ongoing,’ the gendarmerie spokesman said, referring to interviews with residents and potential witnesses.’
Avon told reporters yesterday: ‘Medically we have been told that for more than 48 hours the child is likely to be deprived of water and food given his young age, his constitution’ and the current heat. Vital predictions are very very promising’.
According to La Provence, officials are investigating whether Emile may have been hit by a car or a tractor and his body taken away.
A group of gendarmes search for little two-year-old Emile in a steep area just outside Le Vernet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
Volunteers take part in a search operation for two-and-a-half-year-old Emil who has been reported missing.
French gendarmes join search operation for two-and-a-half-year-old Emile who has been reported missing
‘Of course, we still hope to find him alive, but somewhere else. If he had died in the enclosure, the dogs would have smelled him,’ Le Point told the spokesperson.
‘If he had been alive and hiding, we would have found him the way he was deployed.’
On Tuesday morning, airborne searchers were given a recording of the mother’s voice to play ‘as loud as possible’ over the plane’s speakers.
‘Their hope is that Emil will be hidden in the countryside and only come out when he hears his mother’s voice from the helicopter,’ an emergency services source said.
‘Emile was always chasing butterflies, and would go far before hiding somewhere to sleep,’ the source added.
Hoping to find any possible leads, police are also speaking to Emil’s devout Catholic mother, who has asked for prayers for her son and his safe return.
Police are also investigating another hypothesis that Emil may have been abducted – despite denying any suggestion he was abducted just 24 hours earlier.
‘He is two-and-a-half years old, able to walk. But, all the hunting we have done over the last two days should have allowed us to locate him,’ said Marc Chapuis, the police officer in charge of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence where Emile went missing on Saturday afternoon.
Regarding treating the disappearance as an abduction, public prosecutor Avon said at the same press conference: ‘All hypotheses remain valid, none are supported or excluded.’
‘We are committed to conducting investigations at all levels’.
Three days later, the two-year-old still has not been found, after police searched 20 or so houses in the small Alpine village.
As fears grow, the public prosecutor insists that so far ‘no material points to a criminal offense that could be the source of this disappearance.’
‘From the moment there is no crime, there is no person involved,’ he repeated.
Volunteers are looking for Emile who was playing in the garden of his grandparents’ home in a village just outside Le Vernet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence between Grenoble and Nice when he went missing.
A French gendarme takes part in a search operation for two-and-a-half-year-old Emile who has been missing for two days.
At the press conference Chapuis confirmed that the search system for Tuesday will be adapted to be ‘more targeted’.
Police had already expanded the search area by three miles without finding any trace of the boy on Monday. A helicopter, thermal camera drones and sniffer dogs were brought in to help.
‘We are present on the ground,’ said Chapuis. ‘We deploy special means to search for signs and clues and we respond to the needs of forensic investigations.’
Avon also confirmed that, despite eyewitnesses coming forward, no new material ‘likely to be able to explain the disappearance of little Emil’ has yet come forward.
Emile was playing in the garden of his grandparents’ home in the village of Haute-Vernet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence on Saturday afternoon when he went missing.
His parents – who have not been named – stayed at their home near Marseille, 200 miles away, for the summer holidays.
The family was getting ready to leave the home they were in when Emil took advantage of the inattention, officials said. His grandparents came to pick him up in the car and found him gone.
The grandparents then alerted the authorities about Emil’s disappearance at 5.15pm [4.15pm BST] Family members, police, emergency services workers and local villagers began searching for the boy on Saturday
An initial 5 km search area for Emil was carried out on July 10 with the help of a helicopter, thermal camera drones and sniffer dogs.
Emil was last seen playing in the garden at his grandparents’ house on July 8 as people searched for him
Volunteers take part in a search operation for two-and-a-half-year-old Emil who has been reported missing.
Marie-Laure, who co-runs the only bar in nearby Le Vernet, said: ‘We were preparing for the evening service when we were told the child had gone missing.
‘We all went to see what we could do to help as soon as possible. We looked for places where he could be, we really looked everywhere for him.’
Police have so far searched all the houses in the village, and appealed to anyone with any information to come forward.
Officials released a photo and description of the child to social media and broadcasters, saying he has brown eyes, blond hair and is 90cm (about 3ft) tall.
They said she was wearing a yellow top, white shorts with a green pattern and hiking shoes when she went missing.