Maëlys de Araujo: Remains of missing French girl found

A photo taken on 28 August 2017 shows an appeal for witnesses poster for Maëlys, a nine-year-old girl who disappeared during a wedding party on 26-27 August in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, eastern France

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AFP

Image caption

Maëlys de Araujo attended the wedding with her parents

The remains of a nine-year-old girl who disappeared in the French Alps last August have been found, officials say.

Nordahl Lelandais, a 34-year-old former soldier, has admitted killing Maëlys de Araujo “involuntarily”, without giving details.

He agreed to co-operate with the police after a trace of her blood was found in his car.

The girl went missing during a wedding in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, north of Grenoble.

Nordahl Lelandais said he “got rid of the body” and offered his apologies to the girl’s parents, said Grenoble prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat.

He had previously admitted that Maëlys was in his car on the night she disappeared.

A wedding guest

Maëlys was last seen in the early hours of 27 August in the children’s area at the wedding venue, where Mr Lelandais was also a guest.

After her disappearance, police questioned all 180 guests, and identified inconsistencies in Mr Lelandais’ statements.

He was charged a week later, after police discovered DNA belonging to Maëlys on the dashboard of his car.

Since then, Mr Lelandais has maintained his innocence, claiming that although the girl may have been in his car, that did not prove his guilt.

He was also reported to have spent hours cleaning his car the next day with powerful detergents – something he said he was doing to prepare it for sale.

According to French media reports, Mr Lelandais changed his approach after evidence of blood in his car boot was revealed. He then asked to speak with magistrates and led them to the location of the girl’s remains.

France’s Le Parisien newspaper reports that Mr Lelandais refused to provide details about the girl’s death, beyond his insistence it was accidental.

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AFP

Image caption

French police block off a road near the Chartreuse regional park during Wednesday’s search

A prosecutor, quoted in the French press, said that after Maëlys’ death, her body was taken to a location near Mr Lelandais’ home. He apparently returned to the wedding for some time, before later recovering the remains and burying them in the Chartreuse mountains.

The search for her body took police an entire day, involving sniffer dogs working in the mountain snow.

The police investigation into Mr Lelandais’ involvement included mining his computer and phone for information.

Those trawls revealed that, in the aftermath of the disappearance of 23-year-old soldier Arthur Noyer in April 2017, Mr Lelandais searched the internet for “human body decomposition”.

Mr Noyer’s skull was found by a walker on 7 September in Montmelian, 16km (10 miles) from Chambéry. Mr Lelandais lived with his parents, 30km from Chambéry.

He admitted being in the area where Mr Noyer disappeared but denied any involvement in the killing. He was charged in that case in December.

Mr Lelandais has been questioned about a number of other missing persons in the region.

Maëlys de Araujo: Remains of missing French girl found

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