Annecy, France
The police mountain rescue division is based in Annecy, 35km from Geneva Reuters

A seven-year-old British boy has died in the French Alps after falling off a cliff.

The unnamed boy died during a family skiiing holiday in Flaine, a resort near Geneva which is popular with families.

The boy is believed to have become lost on the piste. French police think that he fell more than 50m to his death after he left a marked ski slope to try to find his parents.

They believe he panicked when he could not see his parents and went in the wrong direction. When he approached the cliff, he removed his skis and walked on before plummeting to his death.

The boy's parents started searching for him at around 4pm yesterday afternoon. After they became worried they contacted the Flaine's piste patrol, who launched a search. The patrol found the boy's tracks in the snow and recovered his body three-and-a-half hours later.

The police have launched an enquiry into the accident and their investigators remain in Flaine.

Boy walked off a cliff

The head of the police's mountain rescue division, which is based in Annecy, is Patrick Poirot. He said: "Specialists are at the scene to try and determine exactly what happened and understand every element that led to this tragedy.

"The seven-year-old boy was with his parents skiing. They were on the piste and then they could not see him. They looked for him but couldn't see him anywhere so they went to the piste patrol and said: 'Our child has disappeared.'"

A search was started and at about 6pm some tracks were discovered in the snow. It was in a very dangerous, out-of-bounds area.

"The tracks led to the little boy's skis. They were there in the snow at the top of a cliff. It was very dangerous. The piste patrol could not go down the cliff so they called a helicopter but it could not land. They spotted the boy and rescuers were winched down, but the child was dead.

"Hypothetically we think that after losing his parents, the little boy didn't know where to go and skied in the wrong direction. He left the marked ski slope and probably skied to the top of a cliff. He then stopped, removed his skis, walked a little way and then fell."