A nine-year-old boy in France was abandoned for two years in an unheated apartment, living alone and scrounging food from neighbours.
His mother, who left him in 2020 to fend for himself, has been sentenced to a six-month prison term, to be served at her home.
Her son lived alone in their council flat that had no electricity or hot water, and even managed to get himself to school, where teachers suspected nothing because he was a good pupil.
According to the Charente Libre newspaper, he mostly lived off cakes and cold tinned food, occasionally pilfering tomatoes from a neighbouring balcony in the flat in Nersac, near Angoulême, southwestern France.
The boy, who washed in cold water, often wrapped himself up in a sleeping bag and had to sleep under three blankets, the paper said.
Neighbours helped him by giving him food, before one anonymously reported the case to the authorities in 2022.
An investigation revealed the mother was living three miles away with her new boyfriend.
The court heard that the 39-year-old, who was charged with abandoning and endangering a minor, visited her son from time to time to take him food.
The boy’s father, who lived in another town, was not charged, and the boy was taken into care, aged 11.
When neighbours had expressed concerns to the mother, she said she was caring for him and to stay out of her business.
The school did not raise the alarm because he appeared normal and clean and earned good marks. Barbara Couturier, the mayor of Nersac, said he appeared so normal.
“He was smiling, a very good pupil, always clean and polite. Nothing suggested he was abandoned. I challenge anyone who can say they would have detected this situation,” she told local media.
His mother told the court her son had lived with her, but analysis of her phone records showed that her phone had hardly even been at the flat.
“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 any more,” a villager told local television.