Remains of missing French toddler Emile Soleil found in French Alps | France

French investigators have found the remains of a toddler who went missing in 2023, in a case that shocked the nation.

Investigators are now working to determine how the boy died, a prosecutor said on Sunday.

Emile Soleil, aged two and a half years old, vanished on 8 July last year while staying with his grandparents in an Alpine village.

Two neighbours last saw him walking alone on a street in Le Vernet, 1,200 metres (4,000 feet) up in the French Alps.

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

He added that genetic testing had shown they were the boy’s remains.

A card with the inscription reading ‘For the little Emile and his family’ next to a portrait of Emile, a missing boy, who disappeared on 8 July 2023. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

“This heartbreaking news was feared,” the child’s parents said in a statement released by their lawyer, Jerome Triomphe.

The parents, both devout Catholics “now know on this Resurrection Sunday that Emile watches over them in the light and tenderness of God,” it said. “But the pain and sorrow remain”.

“The time has come for mourning, contemplation and prayer,” the statement said, asking the family be accorded privacy.

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

A roadblock had been set up on the only road into Le Vernet on Sunday with the prosecutor adding that police were carrying out new searches in the area where the body was found.

Emile disappeared the day after he arrived in the village to stay with his maternal grandparents for the holidays.

He was wearing a yellow T-shirt, white shorts and tiny hiking shoes, investigators said at the time.

A massive search involving police, soldiers, sniffer dogs, a helicopter and drones failed to find any sign of the boy.

Police have started a criminal investigation into a possible abduction but are also considering an accident or a fall as reasons for the toddler’s death.

Officers on Thursday returned to the village, cordoning off the area and summoning 17 people including family members, neighbours and witnesses to re-enact the last moments before he went missing.

Drones flew overhead in the drizzle to capture footage of the re-enactment, but there was no news of any major development.

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