THE parents of teenager Alice Gross said they were “completely devastated” after a body found in a river was confirmed as that of the schoolgirl.
Scotland Yard yesterday said the body recovered from the River Brent is that of the 14-year-old, who went missing on 28 August. Police declared the investigation into her disappearance was now a murder inquiry.
Their prime suspect is convicted killer Arnis Zalkalns, 41, a Latvian, who was spotted following the teenager along a tow path when she was last seen, on 3 September.
Alice’s family said in a statement: “We have been left completely devastated by the recent developments.
“Why anyone would want to hurt her is something that we are struggling to come to terms with. Alice was a loving and much-loved daughter and sister, a quirky live spark of a girl, beautiful inside and out.
“She was a funny companion, a loyal friend, both passionate and compassionate, and so talented with a bright future ahead of her. She brought so much joy to our family and those who knew her.
“We ask that people continue to help the police by giving them information that could help bring the perpetrator to justice.
“We would like to thank all those that have supported us in our efforts to find Alice, especially the local community; it is comforting to know that so many people care.”
Scotland Yard said in a statement: “We can confirm that sadly the body recovered yesterday from the River Brent is that of Alice Gross.
“The family has been informed of this development and the investigation continues.”
A post-mortem examination began yesterday at Uxbridge mortuary and is expected to continue today, due to the “complex nature” of the investigation, the force said.
Police have come under fire for delays in identifying Zalkalns, a builder, as a risk, and so far have not been able to apply for a European arrest warrant due to lack of evidence.
Metropolitan Police Commander Graham McNulty said “significant efforts” were made to hide the body, which was found in the river near Alice’s family home in west London.
But he gave no further explanation as to why it has taken more than a month for any significant progress to be made in the hunt for Alice, despite the force staging the biggest search since the aftermath of the 7 July bombings.
Brentside High School, where Alice was a pupil, said she was an “outstanding and talented student who will be sorely missed”.
The school said: “This is a very sad day for our school and we are devastated by this tragic loss. We are doing everything we can to support each other and will continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead.”
Alice was last seen, on CCTV, walking along a tow path beside the Grand Union Canal in west London. Nearly three weeks later, investigators realised that Zalkalns, who disappeared on 3 September and was reported missing two days later, had been cycling behind her.
He served seven years in prison in his native country for killing his wife, Rudite. He is thought to have come to the UK in 2007, but authorities here apparently had no record of his murder conviction.