Detectives searching for missing Alice rule out park site as ‘area of interest’

A sign for missing teenager Alice Gross tied to the railings of Elthorne Park, Boston Manor in west London
A sign for missing teenager Alice Gross tied to the railings of Elthorne Park, Boston Manor in west London
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A potential lead in the search for missing teenager Alice Gross was ruled out yesterday as police said an area of disturbed earth in a park was no longer of interest.

Investigators had overnight cordoned off parts of Elthorne Park in west London, which runs beside the towpath where the 14-year-old was walking before she vanished.

The latest development in the increasingly desperate hunt for the teenager came after her parents and police renewed appeals for information, four weeks since she was last seen.

Her mother Rosalind Hodgkiss said: “Every morning, as Alice’s disappearance grows longer and longer, brings new agony, new anguish.”

On Thursday investigators staged a reconstruction of the schoolgirl doing a “power walk” on the towpath next to the Grand Union Canal as it passes under Trumpers Way.

She was caught on CCTV at that point at 4.26pm on August 28 and has not been seen since.

Convicted murderer Arnis Zalkalns, who is the prime suspect in her disappearance and has also vanished, was filmed cycling the same route behind the teenager.

During the renewed appeals, Detective Superintendent Carl Mehta stressed that killer Zalkalns – who was also accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl in 2009 – was just “one line of inquiry”.

The Met has come under fire for delays in identifying Zalkalns as a risk, and Commander Graham McNulty admitted on Wednesday that British detectives would have no power to arrest him if he has fled abroad.

Mr Mehta said: “Arnis Zalkalns is a suspect in this inquiry but he is only one line in a significant number of lines of inquiry.

“We are seeking Arnis Zalkalns. We are liaising with our Latvian colleagues but actually also our colleagues all over Europe and elsewhere.”

Alice, who was apparently not picked up on CCTV after 4.26pm, could have taken one of several paths leading off the towpath back towards her home in Hanwell, he said.

Zalkalns, 41, went missing on September 3, after the murder squad took over the hunt for the teenager, and this was reported to police two days later on September 5.

He served seven years in prison after he was convicted of bludgeoning and stabbing his wife Rudite Zalkalns to death in his native country.