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7-year-old boy survives alone in unheated apartment for 2 years while mother lives with boyfriend in France

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In a small town in southwestern France, a nine-year-old boy showed incredible bravery and resourcefulness after being abandoned by his mother. For two long years, from 2020 to 2022, he lived alone in a cold apartment in Nersac, near Angoulême, without basic necessities like hot water, heating, or electricity.

The boy’s mother, who is 39 years old, moved just three miles away to live with her boyfriend, leaving her son to fend for himself. Last week, she was sentenced to six months in prison for abandoning and endangering her child. The boy’s father, who lived in another town, did not face any charges.

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Despite his difficult situation, the boy managed to survive. He washed in cold water and used sleeping bags and blankets to keep warm. To find food, he stole tomatoes from a nearby balcony and sometimes asked neighbors for help. Eventually, these concerned neighbors reported the situation to the police, who took the boy into care.

Remarkably, the boy continued to attend school throughout this ordeal. He kept himself clean, maintained good grades, and completed his homework, which made it hard for others to notice his plight. Barbara Couturier, the town’s mayor, said the boy created a protective facade to make it seem like everything was fine. “I think it was also a kind of protection that he put around himself to say ‘everything is fine,’” she explained.

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Neighbors had initially suspected something was wrong but were dismissed by the boy’s mother, who insisted she was caring for her son and told them to mind their own business. The boy’s ability to look after himself helped keep the neglect hidden for so long.

A classmate revealed that the boy often ate alone, took the bus alone, and rarely went out, preferring to stay home most of the time. During the trial, mobile data showed that the mother spent very little time at the apartment, disproving her claims of living with her son. “He told his mates that he ate his meals alone and took the bus alone. He didn’t go out and stayed home all the time,” the classmate said.

Many neighbors expressed guilt for not realizing the severity of the boy’s situation sooner. One local resident commented on how the anonymity of modern life allows such neglect to go unnoticed, saying, “When there was a family and a village around the family, if the mother neglected the child, it didn’t matter too much, because the rest of the family and the whole village took care of the child. It’s not like that anymore.”

This heartbreaking story highlights the importance of community and the need for vigilance to protect vulnerable children. It also brings attention to the broader issue of child abandonment in Europe. A survey of 10 EU countries revealed a lack of clear legal definitions for child abandonment, making it difficult to address the issue effectively. Efforts to prevent child abandonment include social assistance, day-care facilities, counseling services, financial support, and training for hospital staff to recognize and handle high-risk situations.