A second man has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl from a wedding in the French Alps last weekend.
Maëlys De Araujo has not been seen since 3am on Sunday at a family wedding in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, Isère, some30 miles north of Grenoble.
The suspects, both 34, reportedly know each other, and one of them is a friend of the bridegroom who turned up to the reception uninvited, police say.
Maëlys De Araujo has not been seen since 3am on Sunday at the event in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, Isère
The suspect arrested on Thursday had turned up late in the evening, and police say ‘indications that he disappeared at the same time as the missing girl.’
Today, a friend of the initial suspect, who was in the area on the night of Maëlys’ disappearance was taken into police custody.
Both men have ‘contradictions’ and ‘inconsistencies’ in their statements regarding Saturday night and Sunday morning, police said today.
A source close to the investigation said the police were looking into a mobile phone that the first suspect had concealed from the authorities.
The first suspect, who lives in a village five miles from Pont-de-Beauvoisin, has previous convictions for vandalism and drug abuse.
Police have expanded their search for the nine-year-old, who investigators fear may have been kidnapped
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
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.
When interviewed by detectives on Monday, there were ‘inconsistencies in his stories’, said an investigating source.
‘He has now been placed in custody for further questioning.’
There are fears that Maelys was snatched and then driven away in a vehicle that has not yet been identified.
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.
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
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.
‘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.
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
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.’
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.