AN angel figurine sits on the mantelpiece, a symbol of hope gifted by a friend to help ease what has been months of darkness and despair for an Oldham grandmother.

Four months ago, her grandson, Alex Batty, went missing after going on holiday to Spain with his mum and grandad.

They were due to fly home on October 8 but never returned.

Now, on what is Alex's 12th birthday, his guardian, Susan Caruana, aged 62, desperately tried to hold back the tears to make a highly emotional appeal for him to come home.

"I just want to say to my grandson Alex, I love you so much and please, please just get in contact," she said, describing him as "bright, very cheerful, very affectionate".

"We always did something nice with on his birthday. We'd have a party or go bowling with his friends, his cousins or we've gone trampolining.

"He loved his birthdays and Christmas. I just hope they do something nice with him today."

Alex, a pupil at Hathershaw College, went on the pre-arranged trip with his mum, Melanie Batty, aged 37 - who does not currently have parental guardianship - and Mrs Caruana’s ex-husband David Batty, aged 58, to a villa in the Benahavis area near Marbella.

They flew to Malaga Airport on September 30.

But despite extensive police inquiries, an international appeal and assistance from Spanish authorities, they have not been seen or heard from since - and Miss Batty and Mr Batty are now wanted on suspicion of Alex's abduction.

Inquiries revealed the family left Benahavis on October 8 and it was originally thought they may have fled to Melilla in Morocco, but Susan says she believes they are still in Spain.

Mrs Caruana says her daughter and ex-husband previously lived on a commune in Morocco with Alex in 2014 as part of an "alternative lifestyle" which she believes is behind Alex's disappearance.

Mrs Caruana, of Keswick Avenue, who has cared for Alex for three years, said she's is desperately worried about him and is devastated at the thought of never seeing him again.

"I love him so much," she said.

"I'm beginning to think I may never see him again. I just hope this appeal helps to find him."

"I just die inside a little bit more every day. I just can't tell anybody how it feels.

"We got on so well. I looked forward to him coming home from school every day.

Mrs Caruana agreed to the trip to stay in a villa belonging to the father of a friend of Miss Batty and Mr Batty last September.

She said Alex was excited to go and she was happy to let him as she had to cancel their own holiday due to ill health.

"They wanted to take Alex on holiday for a week," she said.

She spoke to Alex on the phone a couple of days later and says she then received a message to say they were switching off their phones.

That was when she became worried.

"I spoke to Alex on the Sunday morning and he was showing me around the villa on his phone. A couple of days later I tried to contact him again, I tried to ring his mobile, then I tried Melanie's, I tried Dave's and I got a message back saying all devices, phones and tablets, are being switched off.

"This was on the Wednesday. I started to get worried and I phoned the police. I knew, something inside told me then that something wasn't right."

After more pleas for someone to contact her via Facebook she got another call from Alex.

"He just said ‘hiya grandma.’ I said ‘is it ok? Is it going good?’ I said ‘you're definitely coming home on Sunday aren't you?’

"I just knew and I phoned the police again."

On the day they were due to return, Susan received a video.

"On the Sunday, they were due back in the afternoon and my husband was going to go and pick them up. I got this message on Facebook and it was a Youtube video of the three of them. They all spoke on it and Melanie said the reasons why they had done what they'd done.

"Alex said it was a million times better being with his mum and grandad. Obviously it hurt me a bit but then my other concerns kicked in.

"The reason I believe they have done this is because basically my lifestyle, my belief systems, are not what they agree with - just simply living day to day, how normal people do. They didn't want him to go to school, they don't believe in mainstream school."

Mrs Caruana is desperate to hear from Alex to make sure he is okay, especially on his birthday.

She said: “I live in hope. I just hope this appeal helps to find him.”

Detective Sergeant Pete Morley, of GMP's Public Protection Division, said: "It is Alex's 12th birthday today and instead of being at home with his grandmother and friends, we don't know where he is.

"Our mission is to find Alex and bring him home, but sadly, we have had no further sighting of him since October 8 at the Port of Malaga.

“Susan is beside herself with worry. She's gone from seeing him every day to not hearing off him for months. She misses him terribly and is desperate to know he is all right.”

Anyone with information can call police on 0161 856 8972 (+44 161 856 8972 if you are abroad) or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.