A boy who was abandoned by his mother at age seven managed to survive on his own for two years by making it to school every day, and appeared to be ‘happy and well-adjusted’ despite the hell he faced alone at home.
The nine-year-old lived by himself in a council flat in France throughout the Covid pandemic after his mother left him to live three miles away with her new boyfriend.
The neglected child was unable to turn the heating on, meaning he had to shower in cold water and wrapped himself in three duvets to stay warm in the winter months between 2020 and 2022.
While surviving off scavenged food throughout that time, he managed to make it to school every day and achieved good grades, meaning teachers failed to spot that anything was amiss.
The ‘intelligent’ boy, who avoided playing with friends and always went straight home, seems to have thrown himself into school – with psychologists suggesting that the routine it offered ‘saved his life’.
The youngster is now in care and refuses to see his mother, who was arrested after neighbours in the village of Nersac, near Angouleme, sounded the alarm.
The child had been left to fend for himself in a council flat in Nersac, a village on the outskirts of Angoulême in Charente
His mother, who has been named as Alexandra, is now wearing an electronic tag and under legal supervision for 18 months after being found guilty of ‘abandoning and endangering a minor’.
While the 39-year-old is thought to have spent most of the two years with her boyfriend, the boy’s father was absent, meaning he was not held criminally liable for what happened.
The boy is now with a foster family after being taken into care and placed with them a year ago, and is ‘now doing very well,’ according to a local authority source.
His life of solitude and neglect on the Foucaudie council estate went undetected, locals have said, partly because the boy attended school, was clean and worked hard to ‘impress teachers’.
Child psychiatrist Gilles-Marie Valet said school ‘allowed him to remain grounded and to promote autonomy which undoubtedly saved his life.’
‘We can imagine that he acquired a strong capacity for resilience before he turned nine years old. He had already developed the ability to calm down on his own and not panic,’ he added.
Having learned ‘the codes of society,’ the boy saw teachers as ‘a pillar of resistance,’ and he wanted to impress them.
In this sense school ‘allowed him to remain grounded and to promote autonomy which undoubtedly saved his life,’ said Mr Valet.
Cold food came from tinned cans, and the boy also stole tomatoes from his neighbour’s window boxes.
Despite this, investigators are still interrogating staff at the boy’s school to try and find out why no concerns were raised.
Instead, it was left to a neighbour to raise the alarm, when he kept seeing the boy walking to school by himself.
Before he was found, neighbours expressed their concerns to the boy’s mother, who had told them that she was caring for her son and to stay out of her business, The Times reports.
The town’s mayor Barbara Couturier told France Bleu that the boy had kept up with his homework and was a ‘good student’, despite his ordeal.
‘I think it was also a kind of protection that he put around himself to say ‘everything is fine,” she said.
She added that she did not think anyone would have been able to detect what was really going on given how well the boy looked after himself.
Dr Christine Barois, another psychiatrist, said ‘adults outside his home’ such as a teacher ‘would have helped him with external resilience.’
She said school was ‘certainly a refuge for him, otherwise he would have dropped out completely.
‘Learning allowed him to build himself. The way his teachers praised him for getting good grades also surely motivated him not to give up.’
Dr Barois added: ‘He knew how to manage himself in a certain way in relation to the anxieties of abandonment. He matured very quickly and acquired incredible autonomy.’
The boy never went out at all, except to go to school during term time, and to look for food.
A classmate of the youngster told TFI television: ‘He told his mates that he ate his meals alone and took the bus alone. He didn’t go out and stayed home all the time.’
The boy’s mother insisted at last week’s trial that she had lived with her son, but this was disproven by mobile data obtained by police which showed she had hardly been at the flat.
Neighbours have spoken of their guilt at not realising what was going on or acting sooner, telling local media that the anonymity of modern life played a part in allowing the neglect to continue for so long.
‘When there was a family and a village around the family, if the mother neglected the child, it didn’t matter too much, because the rest of the family and the whole village took care of the child. It’s not like that any more,’ a local resident said.