Eight-year-old schoolgirl Maelys de Araujo vanished from a wedding in the Alps in August
A former soldier has admitted killing eight-year-old French schoolgirl Maelys de Araujo. who vanished from a wedding in the Alps in August.
Her remains have been found, a prosecutor announced on Wednesday, after 34-year-old Nordahl Lelandais finally agreed to co-operate with the police and led them to the spot where her body was found.
Lelandais is reported to have agreed to help police - after months of denying the crime - when a trace of the missing girl's blood was found in his car.
Lelandais admitted killing Maëlys de Araujo 'involuntarily' after she went missing during a wedding in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, north of Grenoble.
'Tonight, the parents of Maelys are no longer in the dark, they know that their daughter is dead, that she was killed. And a few minutes ago, we told them that we had discovered the remains of the child,' a Grenoble prosecutor said on Wednesday evening.
'It is this terrible conclusion that the prosecutor of Grenoble has delivered, the culmination of six months of investigation and research.'
Nordahl Lelandais is reported to have agreed to co-operate with the police in the investigation after a trace of Maelys de Araujo's blood was found in his car
Police were reported to have found the buried bones of the dead child on Wednesday
French Gendarmes stand by a vehicle along a road near Domessin in the Eastern French region of Savoie on February 14, 2018 during the transport of suspected killer Nordahl Lelandais, a former military dog trainer, to the alleged scene of the murder
Lelandais was taken for the first time since he was charged to the scene of the crime on Wednesday under a heavy police escort, Parismatch.com reported.
His change of heart was thought to have come about after a trace of Maelys's blood was found in the boot of his car, according to a source who spoke to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
It took a whole day of searching, made very difficult by the snow and the steep terrain, to uncover the remains of the little girl, Le Figaro reported.
The unmarried suspect from the village of Domessin, 18 miles from Chambery, was also charged in December over the April killing of a hitchhiking soldier.
There are also suspicions that Lelandais could be responsible for the unsolved Alps murders in which a British man, his wife and mother-in-law were killed in a forest car park in September 2012.
Saad al-Hilli, Iqbal al-Hilli and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf were shot dead while on holiday in Chevaline, near Annecy,. A passing French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier was also killed.
But despite a massive manhunt, the investigation failed to result in any charges - but hopes were rekindled in December when Annecy prosecutor Véronique Dénizot confirmed to The Telegraph that the case would be re-opened to probe Lelandais' possible involvement.
There are also suspicions that Lelandais could be responsible for the unsolved Alps murders in which Britons Saad al-Hilli, Iqbal al-Hilli and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf were shot dead while on holiday in the Alps
No motive was found by police for the murders despite extensive investigations in Britain, France and Iraq. Investigators have previously suggested the killer could have a military background.
Other cases in which it is suspected that Lelandais may be involved include that of Adrien Mourial, a 24-year-old Belgian citizen who went missing near Lake Annecy in July, and Jean-Christophe Morin and Ahmed Hamad, who vanished in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Lelandais' alleged links to these murders have prompted police to begin poring over files of other missing people in the region amid fears that he could be a serial killer.
Grenoble prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat said that investigators and police dogs found some of Maelys De Araujo's remains Wednesday in a snow-covered ravine, six months after she went missing.
French Gendarmes block road access with a vehicle near Saint-Franc, in the Eastern French region of Savoie on February 14, 2018, where a forest is being searched in relation with the August 2017 disappearance of the eight-year-old girl
French Gendarmes along a road near Domessin in the Eastern French region of Savoie on February 14, 2018 during the transport of suspected killer Nordahl Lelandais to the alleged scene of the crime
The prosecutor said Lelandais told investigators on Wednesday that he killed her accidentally, hid the body and then returned to the wedding party before eventually dumping the body in the ravine.
Lelandais had also been a guest at the wedding in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, near the mountain city of Chambery - but it is not clear if he was formally invited or not.
The prosecutor said Lelandais did not explain the circumstances of the girl's death. A former army dog handler, Lelandais was in September charged in relation to her disappearance.
One unconfirmed report said that the police dogs found the girl's skull and later her bones in the Chartreuse Massif, about an hour from the wedding location.
At the time of the girl's disappearance he was reported to be a friend of the groom who turned up uninvited to the wedding reception.
Several clues pointed towards the former soldier during the police investigation into the disappearance, officials say, including a trace of her DNA found in his vehicle, mobile phone data, and CCTV images filmed on the night she vanished.
The footage showed a car, identified by investigators as belonging to Lelandais, with 'a faint silhouette in a white dress' like the one Maelys had been wearing.
Her parents 'recognised elements of the dress, particularly the strap', their lawyer Fabien Rajon said.
Lelandais's defence had previously challenged the chronology of events as described by prosecutors.
Lelandais was initially charged with 'kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention of a minor of less than 15 years' in connection with Maelys' disappearance
Volunteers: Thousands of people take part in searches for Maelys after she went missing
Time running out: No signs of the missing girl were found last year
His lawyer confirmed last year that while a trace of her DNA had been found on the dashboard, his client 'completely denied' kidnapping her.
He said several DNA traces, including that of his client, had been found on the dashboard and that someone who was in contact with the child could have 'transferred' her DNA in to the vehicle.
He also suggested that the children could have climbed into the car unbeknownst to the driver, noting that all the windows were left down during the party.
Police searched woodland near the wedding reception venue where Maëlys went missing
Suspect: The man in police custody is reportedly a 34-year-old man who turned up to the wedding reception uninvited late on Saturday evening