Toddler’s remains discovered by hiker eight months after he vanished from French hamlet


The remains of a toddler who vanished from a tiny French hamlet eight months ago have been found, according to local prosecutors.

Emile Soleil, aged two, vanished from a family reunion in Le Vernet – a small village in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with around 125 residents– on 8 July last year.

The toddler’s disappearance sparked a huge manhunt involving drones, sniffer dogs and helicopters.

According to BFMTV, a hiker discovered remains on Saturday. Searches are continuing.

Emile Soleil vanished last year (Gendarmerie Nationale)
Emile Soleil vanished last year (Gendarmerie Nationale)

The mayor of Vernet, Francois Balique, told Le Figaro that the area in which Emile’s bones were discovered was being “excavated”.

“It is a place where hunters and their dogs and residents pass daily and where forestry work was carried out in the autumn,” he said.

The entrance to Vernet (Getty)
The entrance to Vernet (Getty)

On Sunday, the Aix-en-Provence public prosecutor announced the development in a statement. It read: “On March 30, 2024, the national gendarmerie was informed of the discovery of bones near the hamlet Vernet.

“The investigators took possession of the bones and immediately transported them to the IRCGN [the gendarmerie’s forensic science centre] in order to carry out genetic identification analyses which made it possible to conclude on March 31 that they were the bones of the child Emile Soleil.

“Under the direction of the investigating magistrates, the IRCGN is continuing criminalistic analyses of the bones and the national gendarmerie is dedicated to deploying resources to undertake additional research in the geographical area where they were found.”

Inside a chapel in La Bouilladisse southern France, a card with the inscription reading ‘for little Emile and his family’ next to a photo of Emile (Getty)
Inside a chapel in La Bouilladisse southern France, a card with the inscription reading ‘for little Emile and his family’ next to a photo of Emile (Getty)

The Facebook group “Pray for Emile” where Emile’s mother regularly posted calls for prayer to find her little boy – was flooded with tributes.

One wrote: “Thinking of you in this painful ordeal. May God welcome your little Emile in his paradise where love and kindness reign. May he support you in these times, lots of courage and love for you, and your entire family.”

Another added: “My prayers are with you on this day and those that follow.”

Emile’s family lives in Marseille and he was on holiday at his maternal grandparents’ home at the time of his disappearance. Police said at least 10 people were present at the property for a family reunion.

The family was due to leave for a hiking outing, and Emile’s grandparents noticed he was missing when they went to put him in the car.

Emile was reportedly seen by two people when he left their home but they “lost sight of him”. Described as 3ft tall, with brown eyes and blond hair, Emile was wearing a yellow T-shirt, white shorts with a green pattern and walking shoes when he disappeared.

Police issued an appeal for information about Emile on 9 July and launched an extensive search operation in Le Vernet, aided by nearly 500 volunteers.

On 13 July, the search was called off and investigators admitted they had “no clue” what had happened to Emile.