A man has been charged with kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl during a wedding in the Alps over a week ago, a French public prosecutor said.
Maëlys De Araujo has not been seen since 3am last Sunday at a family wedding in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, Isère, some 30 miles north of Grenoble.
The 34-year-old suspect is a friend of the groom who turned up uninvited to the wedding reception, and is one of two men initially arrested and released on Friday.
Missing: Maelys de Araujo was last seen in the early hours of Sunday at a community hall where the wedding was held in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, a village some 30 miles north of Grenoble
The suspect was recalled over the weekend following after fresh evidence was uncovered, a police statement said.
According to a source close to the investigation, police found DNA evidence in his car, which had previously caught the attention of investigators as he had washed it after the wedding.
The suspect told police he had washed the car in order to sell it.
He has been charged with ‘kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention of a minor of less than 15 years’ following the police probe, Grenoble’s prosecutor said in a press release issued late Sunday.
He was not an invited guest at the party, but a friend of the father of the groom, and turned up for a late drink.
The suspect, who lives in a village five miles from Pont-de-Beauvoisin, has previous convictions for vandalism and drug abuse.
Suspect: The man in police custody is reportedly a 34-year-old man who turned up to the wedding reception uninvited late on Saturday evening
Charges: The man in custody has been charged with ‘kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention of a minor of less than 15 years’ in connection with Maelys’ disappearance
Maelys, who has dark brown hair and eyes, has not been seen since attending the wedding with her family. Scores of police, search and rescue teams, divers and cavers have spent the week trawling through the heavily wooded area near where the wedding was held for signs of her.
The charged man is one of two suspects who were detained Thursday over inconsistencies in their statements, but then released Friday evening.
‘Brought before investigating judges at the end of the afternoon, he contested the facts. Confronted with testimony, findings and scientific evidence, he persisted in his denials and explanations,’ the statement said.
‘This did not convince the investigative judges, who decided to hold him,’ it added.
‘After the debate… between the prosecutor and the defence,’ the man was placed ‘in provisional detention,’ the statement added.
The prosecutor indicated that fresh evidence uncovered during the police probe had led to the suspect, who had been released, being recalled and questioned again.
Volunteers: More than a thousand people take part in the search for Maelys on Sunday
Search party: Volunteers combed through the village of Pont-de-Beauvoisin and surrounding areas in the hope to find clues of the whereabouts of the girl
Time running out: Maelys has not been seen for over a week, and no trace has been found
Police divers have been in rivers searching for the missing schoolgirl, who was last seen at around 3am on Sunday
Police have been searching woodland near the wedding reception venue where Maëlys went missing
Sniffer dogs lost the scent from Maelys’s cuddly toy in a car park outside the venue, raising fears she was kidnapped and whisked away by car.
Police have interviewed about 250 people since Sunday, including most of the 180 guests at the wedding, as well as several others who attended parties held the same night at a nearby bar and church hall.
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.’
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.