Alice Gross murder: Police criticised over hunt

An ambulance takes away a body thought to be that of Arnis Zalkalns, the prime suspect in the murder of Alice Gross, from Boston Manor Park in west London. Picture: PA

An ambulance takes away a body thought to be that of Arnis Zalkalns, the prime suspect in the murder of Alice Gross, from Boston Manor Park in west London. Picture: PA

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A BODY believed to be that of Arnis Zalkalns, the only suspect in the murder of Alice Gross, was removed from a London park yesterday by police.

The badly decomposed corpse was found in dense woodland in Boston Manor Park, west London, on Saturday.

Police said while formal identification was yet to take place, Zalkalns’ partner, who lives in London, had been informed of the find. The man was found hanged.

Alice, 14, from west London, disappeared on 28 August. Her body was found in the River Brent in London on Tuesday.

She was last seen walking along the Grand Union Canal and 41-year-old Zalkalns was filmed cycling minutes behind on the same route as the schoolgirl on the day she vanished.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Early indications suggest the body may be that of Arnis Zalkalns. We have updated his partner and a family liaison officer is supporting her.”

Previously, the Met was criticised for failing to focus on convicted wife-killer Zalkalns quickly enough in their investigation, which was the biggest operation since the 7/7 bombings.

Police have now come under renewed fire for failing to find the man’s body despite searching Boston Manor Park last weekend. But Linda Massey, 59, who heads the group Friends of Boston Manor Park, said the area where the body was found is heavily wooded and one of the most secluded areas of the park.

She said: “The park has an area of 35 hectares. Last week, when police searched the park, they were concentrating on the area near the cut-through to the River Brent, which is a bit away from the dense woodland in which he was found.

“Not many people use that part of the park where he was found. Mainly, dog walkers and commuters walking through to nearby businesses stick to the path which the council keeps cut back. The woods are so thick, it is hard to access and anything in it would be very well hidden.

“Last Sunday, we had a team of volunteers from Transport for London clearing the ground and planting an orchard next to where the body was found and we didn’t find anything.

“I’m sure the police knew what they were doing and had a master plan.”

The vicar of nearby St Stephen’s Church in Ealing, where Alice went every week, said her death had left a “huge hole” in the community.

Rev Steve Newbold, who had tears in his eyes, said: “Everyone has come together in an outpouring of grief for Alice and her family. As a church, we have been praying for her safe return and, like everyone, we are heartbroken she has been found dead.

“If the body of the man in the woods is Zalkalns, and is Alice’s killer, I am relieved he has been found. But her parents will be left with a lot of questions about what happened to her that will go unanswered.”

One neighbour of the Gross family, father-of-three Chris Estella, who has lived in the area for 15 years, said that if the body was that of the Latvian, “he should have stood up and faced the justice he deserved”.

The ex-landlord of suspect Zalkalns, Radoslav Andric, 64, said he may have killed himself to avoid more jail time, having previously been convicted of killing his wife.

He said: “I saw it on the news this morning. It’s sad he has died. We don’t know if he killed the little girl but if so what he did was terrible.”

Zalkalns was last seen at his Ealing home on 3 September. The builder served seven years in prison in his native country for bludgeoning and stabbing wife Rudite to death before moving to the UK in 2007.

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