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France

Man charged over 9-year-old French girl's disappearance

media Maëlys de Araujo Twitter

A man has been charged with kidnapping a nine-year-old girl who disappeared at a wedding in the French Alps, prosecutors say. He has been placed in provisional detention after DNA traces were found in his car.

The 34-year-old, who had been questioned and released on Friday, was charged on Sunday with "kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention of a minor of less than 15 years".

He was a guest at the wedding during which nine-year-old Maëlys de Araujo disappeared.

After forensic teams found traces of the girl's DNA on his car's dashboard, he admitted that Maëlys had got into the back seat of his vehicle along with a boy to "see if [the suspect's] dog was in the car boot", according to the man's lawyer, Bernard Méraud.

He has denied the kidnapping charges but failed to convince investigators.

Police took an interest in the car after finding out that the man had cleaned it after the wedding.

He claimed that he did so because he planned to sell it.

Sniffer dogs lost the scent from Maëlys's cuddly toy in a car park outside the venue, raising fears she was kidnapped and whisked away by car.

Police have interviewed about 250 people since Sunday, including most of the 180 guests at the wedding, as well as several others who attended parties held the same night at a nearby bar and church hall.

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