Alex Batty is back in the UK after vanishing on a holiday in Spain in 2017 with his mother and grandfather.
The owners of a French farmhouse where British teenager Alex Batty stayed during his years missing abroad have spoken about his time living there.
Alex left home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with his mother and grandfather for a holiday in Spain in 2017, but then disappeared.
Now 17, he returned to the UK on Saturday after walking alone for days in the French Pyrenees to find help.
The gite owners said Alex, who they knew as Zach, was “part of our family”.
He is thought to have stayed there, on and off, over the last two years.
French authorities have described Alex’s relatives’ lifestyle as nomadic, with the family travelling from Morocco to Spain and then on to France.
The Gite de la Bastide is one of a handful of stone houses that make up part of a small hamlet nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Posting on their website on Sunday, the owners of the property, Frederic Hambye and Ingrid Beauve, said Alex did odd jobs in return for food and accommodation.
The couple said they would take him on outings throughout the summer, including cycling and trips to the beach and nearby river.
While his mother did not live there, Alex “left several times” to join her, they said – adding that the last time he came back to the gite was early this summer.
They said he voiced a desire to “return to a normal life” so they helped him find a place at a school, but learned that he needed official identification which he did not possess.
Soon afterwards, they said he told them of his intention to return to the UK to get the identity documents he needed to enrol in a local French school to study computer science.
The couple said when he left, he told them he was going to join his mother. They told him he “would always be welcome” and “if needed, we were there to help him”, adding: “We wish him the best of luck.”
Greater Manchester Police said they needed to fully establish the circumstances surrounding his disappearance before deciding whether to mount a criminal investigation.
They said their other priorities were to support Alex and his family, and to aid his integration back into society.
The whereabouts of Alex’s mother is unknown, although French prosecutors said he told them she intended to take him to Finland – prompting his decision to return to the UK.