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Horror discovery after the disappearance of a child in the Alps

French investigators have found the remains of a toddler who disappeared last year in an Alpine village in a case that shocked the nation, and are working to determine the circumstances of his death, a prosecutor said Sunday.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Emile Soleil disappeared on July 8 last year while staying with his grandparents. Two neighbors last saw him walking alone in a street in Vernet, 1,200 meters above sea level in the French Alps.

“On Saturday, the police were informed of the discovery of bones near the hamlet of Vernet,” said prosecutor Jean-Luc Blachon. He said genetic testing showed these were the boy’s remains.

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

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

“Now is the time for mourning, contemplation and prayer,” he said, asking the family to maintain their privacy.

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

The prosecutor added that police were carrying out further searches in the area where the body was found. A roadblock was installed on Sunday on the only road leading to Vernet.

Emile disappeared the day after his arrival in the village to spend the holidays with his maternal grandparents.

The little boy was wearing a yellow T-shirt, white shorts and small hiking shoes, investigators said at the time.

A massive search involving police, soldiers, sniffer dogs, a helicopter and drones failed to find any signs.

“Family Mourning”

Police have opened a criminal investigation into a possible kidnapping. The possibilities of an accident or fall also remained open.

Police returned to the village on Thursday, cordoning off the area and summoning 17 people, including family members, neighbors and witnesses, to piece together the final moments before she disappeared.

Drones flew over the scene in the drizzle to capture footage of the re-enactment, but no major developments were reported.

Emile’s mother and father were absent the day he disappeared. Some media focused on the role of the boy’s grandfather, now in his fifties. The grandfather was questioned in the 1990s over allegations of violence and sexual assault at a private school.

But a source familiar with the matter said any possible role in the case had only been considered with other hypotheses.

The grandfather’s lawyer declined to comment on Sunday, “out of respect for the family’s grief.”

In November, a day before Emile turned three, his parents published a call for responses in a Christian weekly.

“Tell us where he is,” asked the couple, who also have a younger daughter.

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