from the first searches to the discovery of the child’s bones, a look back at nearly nine months of investigation

Eight months and twenty-two days after his disappearance, bones belonging to little Emile Soleil were found on Saturday March 30 by a hiker who was walking near the hamlet of Haut-Vernet (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence). This is where the two and a half year old boy went missing in July. Analyzes confirmed on Sunday that the bones carry his DNA.

For the moment, the causes of his death remain unknown, and the investigation has yet to resolve many gray areas. For nearly nine months, investigators had increased searches, searches and analyzes to try to resolve this matter and shed light on the fate of the little boy. Franceinfo retraces the stages of the investigation.

Initial searches following the disappearance of the child on July 8

On July 8, Emile was seen for the last time at 5:15 p.m. by two neighbors in an alley in Haut-Vernet, on the slopes of the Trois-Evêchés massif. It was in this hamlet of 25 inhabitants, perched at an altitude of 1,200 meters, that he had just arrived for the summer holidays at the second home of his maternal grandparents. His parents were not present that day. As they prepare to go for a walk, the grandparents can no longer find Emile.

The gendarmerie was alerted around 6 p.m., and an investigation to “search for the causes of the worrying disappearance” began the next day. A call for witnesses is launched and a dedicated telephone line opened. Helicopters and drones, equipped with thermal cameras, are dispatched to the site. “Citizen battles”, bringing together hundreds of people, were organized for two days.

Then, investigators and soldiers continue to carefully inspect 97 hectares of fields, woods and steep terrain. Equipped with metal detectors, they go so far as to probe the most recent bales of hay, looking for a possible zipper or a metal button that could belong to the little boy. The thirty houses in the hamlet attached to the commune of Vernet were also searched, and the residents questioned.

A judicial investigation opened on July 18

Due to “complexity of the matter”, a judicial investigation was opened on July 18, entrusted to the Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) investigation center. Two investigating judges are seized of the case, still for “research into the causes of the worrying disappearance”. At the end ofa final period of exploration carried out in the field at the end of July, un careful work of analyzing the data collected begins. Investigators are examining in particular the telephone calls of all people who have “thick headed” towards Haut-Vernet on the day of Emile’s disappearance.

At the end of August, the judicial investigation was extended to the criminal acts of “kidnapping”, “detention” and “sequestration”. If there is no evidence to favor this lead over another, this reclassification offers more possibilities to investigators, such as placing suspects in police custody.

New excavations in September and October

Despite the impressive system deployed quickly after his disappearance, the child remains untraceable. Accident, homicide, kidnapping… Investigators continue to explore all avenues. Around twenty of them are working full time on the case, under the leadership of the Marseille research section.

New excavation operations are organized in mid-September around a body of water in Vernet, south of the hamlet. Divers inspected it, without result. The gendarmes also examine the concrete slab of a chalet located on the heights of the hamlet, but these checks yield nothing either. Mid-October, the farm of a young farmer from Haut-Vernet is inspected, with the help of drones and tracking dogs. The operation proved, once again, unsuccessful.

A vast search operation in November

Four months after Emile’s disappearance, the gendarmes carried out dozens of searches in the hamlet of Haut-Vernet at the beginning of November, as well as in six other departments. They aim to recover content from computers and mobile phones. Investigators now know who was in Haut-Vernet and Vernet on July 8, 2023, including passing vacationers. “We are trying to be interested in all these peopleexplains a source close to the matter to franceinfo. That’s why there are searches in other departments.”

The appeal of Emile’s parents to “return” their child to them, November 24

On the eve of what would have been Emile’s third birthday, November 24, his parents published an appeal in the weekly Christian Family. “Understand our distress, tell us where Emile is”asks his mother. “Please, if he’s alive, don’t let us live without him, give him back to us! Please, if he’s dead, tell us where he is, give him back to us, don’t let us not without a grave to collect us!”

In this same magazine, the couple declared at the end of August that they had “nothing to hide” and deplored “malicious testimonies in the press”. “We inevitably imagine the worst, but we can’t help but hope”the father then testified.

At the beginning of January, investigators continue “technical” work

Six months after the disappearance, on January 8, theThe Aix-en-Provence public prosecutor’s office announces that the investigation unit dedicated to this case “is still very active”. Investigationdoes not skate, only it took another form, more technical, since the field investigation did not make it possible to determine why and how the child had disappeared”, then explains the prosecutor, Jean-Luc Blachon. Investigators continue to“hasanalyze all the elements collected”, he assures. Hundreds of reports have been processed.

A “scenario” organized on March 28

Emile’s family, neighbors and other visual witnesses are brought together by the courts on Thursday in Haut-Vernet for a “situation”, aiming to reconstruct the moment when the child was last seen. In total, 17 people present on the day of the child’s disappearance (family members, neighbors and eyewitnesses) participate. This kind of reconstruction makes it possible to check the consistency of the declarations of the different witnesses by placing them back on the scene. Access to the hamlet was then blocked for three days, from the day before the operation to the day after. However, the mystery remains intact after this act of investigation, at the end of which no information filters out.

Bones of the little boy found by a hiker, March 30

The Aix-en-Provence public prosecutor’s office announced on Sunday that “bones” corresponding to the body of the boy were found the day before, near Haut-Vernet, by a hiker. Genetic identification analyzes have made it possible “to conclude this Sunday that these were the bones of the child Emile Soleil”, says the prosecutor. The area in which the bones were found had, however, “was searched by the gendarmes”declared the mayor of the town to Figaro.

For Jacques-Charles Fombonne, former judicial police trainer interviewed by franceinfo, “it is difficult to imagine, even if the body was buried quite deeply, that [les enquêteurs et les personnes qui ont participé aux multiples battues] have passed by”suggesting that these bones may have been displaced “by an assassin or by bad weather or by animals”.

But to clarify this mystery, we must continue the investigation. Sunday afternoon, while the examination of the bones continues, the gendarmes close off access to Haut-Vernet and launch “additional research”helped in particular by dogs and drones, in particular in search of the rest of the child’s remains.

source site-33