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France police detain wedding guest after 9-year-old disappears from reception

This notice released on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, by Gendarmerie Nationale shows a call for witnesses and an undated portrait of a missing girl, Maelys. Gendarmerie Nationale via AP

PARIS — French police have detained a wedding guest for questioning in connection with the search for a nine-year-old girl who went missing at a weekend wedding party in the Alps.

The 34-year-old was detained Thursday, prosecutor Dietlind Baudoin said in a statement.

The prosecutor warned against jumping to conclusions. She said police wanted to clarify the whereabouts of a guest who left the celebrations around when the girl disappeared in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Lyon in southeastern France.

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The detained person is a man, according to another official close to the police investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

“This is horrendous. I hope we are going to find her,” said Joelle Martin, mayor of the nearby village of Saint-Martin de Vaulserre, who attended the wedding.

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Martin described Pont-de-Beauvoisin as usually “extremely calm.”

“People are calm, quiet, we all know each other. I can’t explain this disappearance. But I trust our police,” she said.

Police search notices identified the girl as Maelys and said she was wearing a white sleeveless dress and white sandals when she was last seen at around 3 a.m. Sunday at the celebrations in Pont-de-Beauvoisin’s village hall.

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Some 85 police officers were still involved Thursday in the search.

“The important thing is to find the most material leads possible,” said Capt. Cedric Sommen, a police commander involved in the operation. “It’s the investigators who will be coming little by little to take into account what we’ve found and judge their importance to the case.”

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Police dogs found the girl’s trace but lost it in the village hall’s car park, suggesting she may have got into a car.

The prosecutor has opened a kidnapping investigation.

Police have combed wooded slopes and streams, questioned potential witnesses and examined photos and videos taken by wedding guests for any possible clues.

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