French police fear missing Emile may have been hit by a harvester
French police are fearing that a missing two-year-old boy may have been hit by a combine harvester while walking through long grass. The toddler disappeared without trace on July 8 from Haut-Vernet , an Alpine hamlet south of Grenoble, where he was staying with his grandparents. Prosecutor Remy Avon said on Monday that the investigation is being launched to ‘investigate causes of the worrying disappearance.’
Some scenarios, such as a bird of prey or wolf attack, have already been ruled out. A total of 20 houses were also searched, but nothing was found there. Now the police are investigating the scenario in which Émile would have come into contact with an agricultural machine. A farmer from the village of Le Vernet, where the search is taking place, told BFMTV that it would not be an illogical scenario. He explained: ‘Sometimes we find deer. The little one may have ended up in the tall grass and been hit by a farm machine. That would be terrible.’ The countryside search for missing Émile was called off on Wednesday evening last week, after four days.
Hundreds of gendarmes, police and volunteers had been involved in a vast operation beating fields and bushes, and examining them from the air. Local prosecutor Rémy Avon said that the ‘physical search’ could go no further, because there was ‘no sign’ of Émile. But he added: ‘The judicial investigation into the causes of the disappearance will continue, in particular by analysing the considerable mass of information and elements collected over the past four days.’ He said the possibilities that Émile had been murdered, kidnapped, or got involved in an accident were all being looked at. ‘All these theories are active,’ said Mr Avon. ‘Nothing has been ruled out.’
The police have released a photo and description of Emile, who is almost 3ft tall, with brown eyes, and blond hair . He was wearing a yellow top, white shorts with a green pattern, and hiking shoes at the time of his disappearance.
Residents of Vernet have meanwhile been referring to the place as a cursed ‘village of the damned’ because of its links with disaster. In March 2015, Vernet was also cordoned off following a horrific air crash in which 150 people died, including two babies. Germanwings Airbus A320 was deliberately brought down by co-pilot Andres Lubitz, who had previously been treated for [expletive] tendencies. Many Vernet residents took part in high mountain searches for possible survivors at the time. They also opened their homes to family and friends of those who perished in the disaster.
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