Home / World News / Ex-soldier denies murdering Maelys de Araujo at French wedding

Ex-soldier denies murdering Maelys de Araujo at French wedding

A former soldier has been charged with the murder of a nine-year-old girl who vanished from a wedding party in August.

Maelys de Araujo was wearing a white dress at the family celebration with her parents in the village of Pont de Beauvoisin in the French Alps when she disappeared, sparking a huge search for her.

Nordahl Lelandais, 34, has been in custody since early September and has already been charged with kidnapping.

Divers have been searching for evidence in ponds near where Maelys was last seen
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Divers searched for evidence in ponds near where Maelys was last seen

Prosecutors say enhanced video showed “a small, frail form in a white dress” in the passenger seat of Lelandais’ car as he drove away from the wedding venue.

That white form was not there in video footage of him returning to the party.

Maelys has never been found.

'Very dense' woodland surrounds the area where Maelys was last seen, police say
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‘Very dense’ woodland surrounds the area where Maelys was last seen, police say

Police interviewed hundreds of people and the public joined huge searches for her. Maelys would have turned nine on 5 November.

Lelandais, who was a military dog trainer, told detectives that the girl had briefly got in his car with another child to see if his dogs were in there.

But he has insisted that the children both got out and returned to the wedding party.

Hundreds of volunteers turned out on Saturday to search for the nine-year-old
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Hundreds of volunteers turned out to help search for the nine-year-old

Investigators have said Lelandais arrived late for the party and left on three occasions throughout the evening – once around the same time as Maelys disappeared.

He is also believed to have cleaned his car the day after the wedding, though he claims he was preparing it for sale.

Lelandais denies kidnapping and murdering the child.

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