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French police seek more remains after missing boy’s skull

French police have conducted new searches for the remains of a boy whose skull was found at the weekend, nine months after he went missing in a remote Alpine village, in a mystery that remains unresolved.

Emile Soleil, aged two-and-a-half, was at the summer home of his grandparents in the tiny hamlet of Le Haut-Vernet when he vanished in July.

Emile Soleil went missing from his grandparents home in July

Dozens of gendarmes and investigators, aided by dogs specialised in detecting human remains, were involved in the search which will also seek to find new evidence about what happened to Emile, the local gendarmerie told AFP.

It remains unclear what happened to Emile, with possibilities ranging from an accidental fall to manslaughter to murder not ruled out.

French Gendarmes secure a perimeter around the village of Le Haut-Vernet

The prosecutor of the regional centre of Aix-en-Provence, Jean-Luc Blachon, is to give a news conference at later today on the latest developments.

Searches will continue for as long as necessary, the gendarmerie has said, with no outside person allowed to access Haut-Vernet, home to just 25 people, until the end of this week at least.

Investigators on the ground are being helped by forensic colleagues in Paris who are examining the remains that were found.

Were remains moved?

The remains – the skull and teeth – were found on Saturday by a hiker along a track some way from the hamlet of Le Haut-Vernet, with the key question whether that was the place Emile died or if they were moved there later.

That area had already been thoroughly inspected shortly after Emile went missing in July.

Investigators will try to find out whether “these bones could have been moved by a human, an animal, or the weather conditions,” gendarmerie spokeswoman Marie-Laure Pezant said yesterday.

Two neighbours last saw Emile walking alone on a street in Le Haut Vernet, 4,000 feet up in the French Alps on 8 July. The little boy was wearing a yellow T-shirt, white shorts and tiny hiking shoes.

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

Police last week 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.

Last week police returned to the village

There is no suggestion of any link between the timing of the re-enactment and discovery of the remains.

Emile’s mother and father were absent on the day of his disappearance. “This heart breaking news was feared,” the child’s parents said in a statement released by their lawyer after the remains were found.

Some media had focused on the role of the boy’s grandfather, now in his fifties.

The grandfather was questioned in the 1990s over alleged violence and sexual assault at a private school.

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

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

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