A man has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl who vanished from a wedding attended by nearly 200 guests, amid fears she has been kidnapped.
Maëlys De Araujo has not been seen since 3am on Sunday at a family wedding in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, Isère, in theFrench Alps.
The man arrested was ‘near the wedding venue’ when she disappeared, and his account of his whereabouts that night contained inconsistencies, a police source said.
Maëlys De Araujo has not been seen since 3am on Sunday at the event in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, Isère
Police have expanded their search for the nine-year-old, who investigators fear may have been kidnapped
Around 150 police officers are now working on the case, with a kidnapping investigation opened by prosecutors.
Scores of local police, search and rescue teams, divers and cavers are searching the heavily-wooded area for signs of her.
Maëlys attended the wedding with her parents – her mother is a cousin of the bride – and her older sister.
Regional police chief Yves Marzian said three sniffer dogs had all lost the scent from Maelys’s cuddly toy at ‘the same spot’ in the car park outside the venue.
‘One of the possible theories is that little Maelys left in a car, one way or another,’ Marzian said.
Police are increasingly worried the young girl may have been bundled in a car in the carpark of the wedding venue in the early hours of Sunday
Police have been searching woodland near the wedding reception venue where Maëlys went missing, and today discovered a hair clip
Police divers have been in rivers searching for the missing schoolgirl, who was last seen at around 3am on Sunday
French gendarmes are pictured searching for evidence in Pont-de-Beauvoisin today as concerns grow for the missing nine-year-old
‘We are not losing hope to find some trace,’ gendarme official Jean Pertue told reporters today, in comments shown on BFM television.
The search has been broadened around the town of Pont-de Beauvoisin, and divers, search dogs, volunteer citizens and helicopters are also helping. Homes have also been searched as authorities become increasingly worried about Maelys.
People who were at two other parties are also being questioned.
One of the wedding guests, identified only as Gregory, told Le Parisien: ‘The DJ for the evening announced on the microphone that a child had disappeared. Suddenly, everyone started searching, in the main hall and outside.
‘It was anguish. To see the disappearance of a nine-year-old, that’s not nothing.’
A missing poster erected in the area to help find Maëlys De Araujo, who has not been seen since 3am on Sunday
French gendarmes search for evidence in the forest today in the area around Pont-de-Beauvoisin, eastern france, after Maëlys De Araujo disappeared
It was initially thought she may be asleep after playing a game of hide-and-seek.
Gregory told the French newspaper he believes the young girl was kidnapped.
A source close to the investigation said ‘each passing hour’ makes kidnapping more likely than the possibility that Maelys was involved in an accident or ran away.
‘It’s likely she got into a car,’ the source told AFP.
The child’s mother and other relatives were receiving psychological counselling, the RTL broadcaster reported.