Maelys de Araujo missing: Man charged after disappearance of girl, 9, from French wedding party

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A man has today been charged in connection with the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl who went missing during a wedding celebration in the French Alps.

Maelys de Araujo was last seen in the early hours of Sunday 27 August in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, a village that lies about 30 miles north of Grenoble, south east France.

French police said they have charged a 34-year-old man – an attendee of the wedding, reported to be a friend of the groom – on a preliminary basis for “kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention of a minor of less than 15 years”. 

He is one of two suspects that police detained last Thursday over inconsistencies in their statements. Both men were released Friday evening.

The prosecutor’s office said the man denied any wrongdoing but his explanation “did not convince investigation judges”.

Grenoble’s public prosecutor said: “Brought before investigating judges, he contested the facts. Confronted with testimony, findings and scientific evidence, he persisted in his denials. This did not convince the investigative judges, who decided to hold him.”

Most of the 180 guests at the party have been questioned by detectives since the girl’s disappearance.

Suspicions first grew that Maelys had been kidnapped after sniffer dogs lost the scent from her cuddly toy in a car park outside the venue. Police have spent the past week searching nearby wooded areas for signs of Maelys. They have also scoured photos and videos of the event looking for signs of unusual activity.

On Saturday, hundreds of volunteers joined the search effort.

Over the weekend, police chief Yves Marzin said: “It is like looking for a needle in a haystack, extremely tedious work but very important.”

No trace has been found of Maelys, who was dressed in a white party dress and was playing with other children in her bare feet before she went missing. 

Many assumed Maelys had simply disappeared somewhere for a sleep following a game of hide-and-seek, until the alarm was raised. 

Most of the guests at the wedding have now been interviewed by detectives, while the home of the caretaker of the hall was also searched. 

Some 70 people who were in a nearby bar called the Rendez-Vous were also interviewed. 

The phone records of all those in the area at the time of the wedding were also examined. 

Maelys lived with her parents and sister in the town of Mignovillard, in the Jura department of France, and was due to start a new school term in September.

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