A court sentenced the now teenage boy’s mum to 18 months behind bars Google/Getty
For two years, the boy’s view out of the cold flat was a cemetery. Canned food was mostly all he ate, and he curled up at night in three duvets.
The nine-year-old’s mother was nowhere to be found, having abandoned him in 2020 to start a new life with her boyfriend in Sireuil, southwest France.
All alone, the boy was stuck in a form of low-income housing known in France as a HLM, in Nersac, Angoulême, that had no heating or electricity.
He stole tomatoes growing on a neighbour’s balcony and washed himself using cold water. The fridge, lacking power, was always empty.
But an Angoulême court sentenced the boy’s mother, 39, last week to 18 months in prison – including six months suspended wearing an ankle bracelet – for compromising a minor’s health and safety by abandoning them.
The court heard how, from time to time, the mother visited her son on a scooter to buy him food at a local grocery store.
She used her food stamps supplied by their local social welfare agency, communal d’action social (CCAS), to buy him cakes and biscuits from the grocers.
But she never stayed the night. Leaving her son behind once again, the regional newspaper Charente Libre reported.
His father was long since out of the picture, having separated from his mother when he was young.
Social services, teachers and even the boy’s neighbours were none the wiser about his situation, given his good grades and well-kept appearance.
‘For me, it was normal, his mother was waiting for him at home. I had no idea that he was alone at home,’ a next-door neighbour told TF1.
His fellow students thought the same, thinking he was just a solitary child. As one told the TV network: ‘He told [friends] that he ate alone and took the bus alone. He didn’t go out, he stayed at home.’
After worried neighbours phoned the police in May 2022, Barbara Couturier, the mayor of Nersac, lodged a report to France’s child protection and welfare services, known as Aide sociale à l’enfance (ASE).
She added to France Bleu that it was hard to realise that the boy, then 11, was living alone in such trying conditions.
‘I think it was also a kind of protection that he put around himself to say, “everything is fine”,’ the mayor said.
Police raided the flat and found nothing that suggested the mother lived there with her son. It was, investigators said, a ‘poorly invested’ home.
‘My toothbrush fell behind the shelf,’ the mother told detectives, denying any wrongdoing.
Phone data, however, showed that the mother rarely frequented the flat nor did she accompany her son to and from school, which was a few kilometres away.
The boy was taken into social services in August 2022 and placed in a foster home.
The mother was sentenced on January 16, with a judge ruling that she showed no remorse and ‘did not really recognise the facts’.
While she was granted visitation rights, she has only seen her son twice.
The boy, however, has no interest in seeing his mother.
He is progressing ‘favourably’, the trial heard, and is known for his ‘maturity and resilence’.