Two days after the discovery of the remains of little Emile, dozens of researchers are “combing” today the outskirts of the small village of Au-Vernay, in the south-east of France, where this little boy, aged 2.5 years, went missing in July, in order to shed light on the circumstances of his death.

“The investigations will last as long as necessary,” said Colonel Pierre-Yves Bardy, commander of the Gendarmerie in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, which is in charge of protecting the area where the experts work, between other anthropologists and police dog handlers. “We have to avoid the possibility of hikers or other persons coming and contaminating the space.”

The search continues in undeniably difficult conditions, due to the heavy rains that swept the area overnight.

“This is a very delicate, detailed job, which is exactly why we brought in the best, those who have the most experience at an international level.”

In order to facilitate the investigations, the small village of 25 inhabitants was again closed off from the rest of the world, for at least a week.

A barricade placed in the middle of the only road, which connects the commune of Vernet with the village of Au-Vernet, is blocking access, AFP journalists at the scene found.

Accidental fall, manslaughter, murder? “We are not certain that we will discover the cause or the circumstances of the death,” warned gendarmerie spokeswoman Marie-Laure Pezan on France Info radio this morning.

Rugged area

Only some bones, among them the child’s skull, were found on Saturday by hikers, not far from the village. “In a zone in nature, steep and not always easily accessible”, which had, however, been inspected “many times” since July, Pezan clarified, acknowledging that there is a “very small possibility” that the researchers passed by the corpse, unseen, during searches in the summer.

The goal will be to scientifically determine if the body has been in that area since the child disappeared. “When you have a decomposing body, you have evidence in the soil that allows you to know if the body has been in that soil for a period of time,” the spokeswoman explained.

Anthropologists will “try to identify whether these bones were at that location or whether they were transported by a person, an animal or even the weather.”

The anthropologists will work with colleagues from the national gendarmerie’s Institute of Criminal Investigations (IRCGN), with forensic analyzes of the remains continuing at the institute’s laboratories in Pontoise, near Paris.

Conflicting testimonies

When he disappeared on July 8, Emil had just arrived for the summer at his grandparents’ cottage. Two neighbors confirm that they saw him, on the main street of the village, but their testimonies are contradictory.

The baby boy was seen at around 17:15 local time. His parents were not present that day.

With the discovery of the bones on Saturday, the scenario of an accidental fall seems to regain credibility: this hypothesis, however, seemed to weaken after the fruitless searches carried out in recent months on the outskirts of the village, located at an altitude of 1,200 meters, on the slopes of Mount Troyes-z-Evèce.

The discovery came two days after investigators carried out a sort of reconstruction of events for the first time since the investigation began. During this process, 17 people were asked to take part, including everyone who was present on the day of Emil’s disappearance, in order to accurately determine their actions and movements.

The investigation is expected to be long as it is “complicated”, the prosecutor of Aix-en-Provence, Jean-Luc Blanchon, insisted yesterday in his statements to Agence France-Presse.