The man charged with kidnapping a nine-year-old French girl has admitted she got into his car – after traces of her DNA were found on the dashboard.
Maelys de Araujo was last seen in the early hours of Sunday 27 August in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, a village about 30 miles north of Grenoble in southeastern France.
Despite a massive search of woodland, caves and rivers, no trace of her has been found and the case continues to dominate headlines in France.
Dogs lost the scent from her cuddly toy at a car park outside the wedding venue, suggesting she may have been driven away.
A 34-year-old man was charged on Sunday with the “kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention of a minor of less than 15 years”.
The man’s lawyer told the AFP news agency his client admitted during police questioning that the girl had got into the car – but that he denied abducting her.
He said the suspect, who has not been named, said Maelys had “got into his car with a little boy, onto the back seat to see if his (the suspect’s) dog was in the boot”.
The man – a guest at the wedding – was arrested last week, along with a friend, over inconsistencies in his statement, but the pair were later released.
It emerged the suspect washed his car after the wedding, but his lawyer said it was because he wanted to sell it.
The suspect is said to live near Pont-de-Beauvoisin with his parents and his re-arrest came after police discovered new evidence.
“Confronted with testimony, findings and scientific evidence, he persisted in his denials and explanations,” the prosecutor’s office in Grenoble said on Sunday.
“This did not convince the investigative judges, who decided to hold him.”
Maelys was at the wedding with her parents and was wearing a white dress and had a cuddly toy with her.
Police have interviewed about 250 people, including nearly all of the 180 guests at the wedding, as well as people at parties held the same night at a bar and church hall.
Meanwhile, the massive search for the nine-year-old continues.
On Saturday, hundreds of volunteers braved heavy rain to look for her and police have also been scouring through photos and videos taken by wedding guests to look for any unusual activity.
Police chief Yves Marzin said: “It is like looking for a needle in a haystack, extremely tedious work but very important.”