Disappearance of Émile: where is the judicial investigation? An "endless wait" for parents

Two months after the disappearance of Émile in the hamlet of Haut-Vernet on July 8, 2023, the investigation extended to criminal motives is still ongoing.

Disappearance of Émile: where is the judicial investigation? An "endless wait" for parents

Two months after the disappearance of Émile in the hamlet of Haut-Vernet on July 8, 2023, the investigation extended to criminal motives is still ongoing. The little boy's parents are calling for prayers for their son to be found, but are staying away from the media.

Two months since little Émile disappeared in Haut-Vernet, a small hamlet in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. This September 8, 2023, the parents of the two and a half year old child said they were suffering from this “endless wait” and called for prayer “to ask a little more intensely from the Blessed Virgin for the return of our little boy” on a support group created on the social network Facebook. Émile's parents, who have remained discreet since the disappearance of their son - they only gave one interview to the magazine Famille Chrétien at the end of August - turn to religion to overcome the ordeal of the loss of a child .

Two months since the disappearance of Émile therefore and the investigation has still not made it possible to know more about what happened to the little boy. Intense searches in the sector and numerous hearings have not moved the investigators forward. Not even the testimony of the last two people to have seen the child on July 8, 2023. One of them, living in the hamlet of Vernet, spoke to BFM D'ICI: “That day, I I saw the little one going down towards the wash house. I was doing work at home. [...] The grandfather was cutting wood about ten meters from the child. [...] A few minutes later, I I saw the distraught family who were looking for the little one and who quickly called the gendarmes".

The witness, who admits that he did not call for help himself, also responded to the criticism that had been made on this subject by "people who live in Paris, who do not know life in a hamlet". According to this resident of the locality of around twenty homes there was no reason to worry since the boy's family was present. The Aix-en-Provence public prosecutor's office assured that it had heard the witness, but believes that none of this information can direct investigators "towards one hypothesis rather than another".

Émile's parents spoke only once, in an interview granted on August 29 to the Christian Family magazine. They thanked the efforts made by those who supported them and praised the work of investigators and firefighters who “showed great professionalism and a lot of empathy,” according to Émile’s father, Colomban. The two parents explain to Christian Family that they are holding on thanks to their faith, both being “Catholics of the Roman Church”, and admit to not being “afraid to ask God for a miracle”.

The little boy's parents also wanted to contradict certain information published in the media. "Certain rather vicious media allowed themselves to tell anything about us under the pretext that we were Catholics...", laments Colomban. They also discussed rumors about their affiliation with far-right associations and parties. "We are active in the Charlier Center [traditionalist and assumed far-right Catholic organization, editor's note] and in the Agrif (General Alliance against racism and for the respect of French and Christian identity) and we are proud of it. "We have absolutely nothing to hide," said the mother, Marie.

Émile's mother felt that the media wanted to "make them seem like crazy people who rely solely on prayer while neglecting action." While Colomban deplored the suspicions raised against him in the disappearance of his son: “Certain media went so far as to dare to write that the investigators were now interested in us on the grounds that my profile intrigued them more and more. He It took a lot of inhumanity for some to make fun of Emile's disappearance, and for others to rejoice in it on so-called social networks because of our real or supposed opinions."

The couple also wanted to defend the allegations against their family. “Certain malicious testimonies in the press demonstrate crass ignorance, about us and also about my parents, on the front line in this story, my father in particular” he added denouncing “disinformation and hatred” whose family was the target.

The little boy from La Bouilladisse (Bouches-du-Rhône) disappeared on Saturday July 8, 2023 near the home of his grandparents, located in the hamlet of Haut-Vernet (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence). Émile escaped the vigilance of his family around 5:30 p.m. and was seen one last time by two witnesses at the same time walking down a slope leading to his grandparents' residence. Since then, no sign of life or trace of the little boy has been found.

Émile's grandparents were not alone when the child disappeared. “Several other members of the family [were] also present” at the home, according to details from Le Figaro. In total, a dozen people were there, including uncles, aunts and cousins ​​of the missing child. As for the two witnesses who saw the child, they explained that they were not worried since, according to them, it is common to see children playing in the streets in this hamlet of Vernet.

The situation is very delicate for this young child, according to the public prosecutor of Digne-les-Bains, Rémy Avon: "Medically, we are told that beyond a period of 48 hours, given the young age of the child, given his constitution and considering that a human who would be deprived of food and water by the current extreme heat, the vital prognosis is very very serious." The search began a few hours after Émile's disappearance and continued for five days. But, despite the resources deployed and the combing of 97 hectares in and around the hamlet of Haut Vernet, “no element” was found. In fact, there is still no evidence to favor one hypothesis over another, but no avenue has been ruled out either and the prosecution is not "forbidding any investigation".

After five days of searches, the research ended on Thursday July 13 and the investigation entered a second phase: that of the analysis of the data collected by the investigators during the hearings, the searches, thanks to the testimonies or the data telephone. 25 gendarmes are grouped together to form a national investigation unit into this disappearance. This allows this system to rely on all regional and national resources of the gendarmerie. Investigators are relying on telephone data, all calls and messages made in the town of Vernet during Émile's disappearance, to detect clues. A colossal and time-consuming job, since 1,600 telephones were in the area at the time of Émile's disappearance, as indicated by Rémy Avon, public prosecutor of Digne-les-Bains, in a press release published on July 18 and relayed by Le Figaro. “1,400 telephone reports were processed following the call for witnesses launched on July 9,” he added.

Since July 18 and the opening of a judicial investigation by the public prosecutor's office, investigators have conducted new hearings among the inhabitants of Haut Vernet, according to information from BFMTV. They notably heard from a couple, whose husband was one of the last residents to see the young boy playing on the day of his disappearance. A hearing lasting several hours, conducted on July 20, which was intended to allow investigators to understand why the couple was absent when Émile disappeared. BFMTV also reports that the vehicles of residents of Haut Vernet were analyzed by forensic technicians. Research carried out to find possible clues that could link one of them to Émile. But for the moment, no lead has been favored to explain the disappearance of this young boy.

A drone was also mobilized to map the region, in particular a wooded and staked area where the little boy could have gotten lost. This aerial technology could play a crucial role in the ongoing investigations, RTL reported at the time. But the analysis carried out by the drone was completed on Friday July 28 around noon, with no results.

The judicial investigation was extended from July 28 to the facts of "arbitrary kidnapping, arrest, detention, and sequestration of a minor under the age of fifteen", by decision of the public prosecutor of Aix-en-Provence. Emile's family has filed a civil action and now has access to the file on the child's disappearance, according to information from the Aix-en-Provence prosecutor's office, relayed by BFM DICI. They are informed of developments and have access to the file through their lawyer. In the event of a possible trial, it is possible to be assisted or represented by this same lawyer for the civil party.

A report of Émile was issued on July 9 and is still distributed by the gendarmerie with a photo of the little boy. The 2-year-old blonde with brown eyes is 90cm tall and was wearing a yellow top, white shorts and hiking boots at the time of his disappearance.

The gendarmerie invites all people who may have seen the boy in the Vernet sector or who have crossed the area to go towards Barcelonnette or l'Ubaye or "going down towards Nice, Grasse, Draguignan or Aix-en-Provence" to inform them investigators at

All avenues are still being considered to explain Emile's disappearance. But it is surprising that no trace of the child has been found: although he is described as a "good walker", the little two-year-old boy was not able to venture on foot beyond the area searched by investigators. Especially since the terrain is very “steep” in the hamlet, which is bordered by steep slopes on one side and a cliff on the other. The Saint Hubert dogs of the canine team did not smell anything when they could have found a trace of the child "whether he has been dead or alive for less than four days" according to an expert at the microphone of BFMTV. And the specialist adds: “What can make things complicated is that [Émile] was moved by a mobile means. […] There would be a bridge in the track and it is difficult to catch up ".

The intervention of a third person in Émile's disappearance therefore seems possible. The child could have been kidnapped or injured and his body moved. The trail of the accident was once considered when traces of blood were discovered on a car searched by investigators. After analysis, the blood was found to be of animal origin.

Emile is part of a large family. His mother, named Marie, is described as one of the eldest of ten siblings. Several members of this family were gathered at the second home of the little boy's grandparents on the day of the disappearance. If the little boy and his parents live in La Bouilladisse, in Bouches-du-Rhône, Émile used to spend weekends and holidays in Haut Vernet. Émile's family is also known to the inhabitants of the hamlet. They are described as “good people” and “very religious”.

Émile's grandfather initially wanted to be a priest before finally falling in love and embracing a career as an osteopath, according to information from Var-Matin. As for the grandmother, she was a teacher. Their ten children were homeschooled. Few details were given about Émile's parents, but the Var daily understands that the child's father was part of the "Zou!" friends of Éric Zemmour in 2021, during the regional elections.

Émile's parents have not spoken since the disappearance of the little boy and, according to friends of the family or residents of Haut-Vernet, those close to Emile have withdrawn into themselves and turned to the religion to overcome this ordeal. The child's family also organized a small mass at the hamlet chapel on Wednesday July 12. One of the family friends who attended the ceremony testified to BFM D’ICI, describing a “bruised” family. “Today, we must leave this family in their family privacy and so that they can find a bit of serenity for the rest of the events,” added the man, who has not heard from the family. Émile since mass.

Émile's father is a member of Chrétienté Solidarité, a traditionalist Catholic movement, according to information from BFMTV and an engineer by profession. His grandfather is the treasurer of this movement which declares to fight for the defense of "threatened values ​​of Christian civilization and French identity" and "against Islamist totalitarianism, anti-human inversions, totalitarian globalism and all extreme left". Its historic founder and figure of the French far right, Bernard Antony, defended the family of the missing little boy to BFMTV on Saturday July 22, in the face of rumors circulating about sectarian excesses within them. “They are Christians, period,” he declared, before assuring: “They are not part of a sect.” “Émile's parents are charming people. They decided to face this ordeal by clinging to their faith,” said the president of Chrétienté Solidarité, Yann Baly, reports the news channel.