RAF pinpoint search areas in hunt for Alice Gross

THE RAF has been drafted in to help in the search for teenager Alice Gross as police scour hours of footage from hundreds of CCTV cameras for clues.

Despite a massive coordinated search, 14yearold Alice Gross remains missing after a month. Picture: PA

An ongoing search of scrubland along the towpath near the Grand Union Canal in west London where the 14-year-old was last seen resumed yesterday, and police said CCTV is playing a “crucial role” in piecing together the last movements of Alice, missing for five weeks now.

And, along with over a dozen police forces across the country, the RAF have provided support with “aerial analysis” pinpointing places to focus the hunt.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Thirty detectives are reviewing 35 terabytes of material from around 300 CCTV cameras covering a six-mile-square area.

Yellow ribbons can be spotted tied to railings and front doors in west London in a bid to jog people’s memoies to help the search for the missing schoolgirl. Runners taking part in the Ealing Half Marathon yesterday also wore the ribbons as they completed the route.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that as part of the search operation, the RAF has provided assistance in the form of aerial analysis to identify potential areas of interest to officers. This is a massive investigation. A range of officers and staff from across the Met are taking part in the ever-expanding search for Alice.

“To date, the search has involved the Met’s underwater and confined space search team, marine support unit, search dogs, air support unit, Territorial Support Group, local borough officers, volunteer police cadets, visual images identification and detections officers, plus licensed search officers.”

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the RAF was helping police. A spokesman said: “We can confirm that the MoD is providing routine support.”

Alice was captured on CCTV walking along the towpath next to the canal as it passes under Trumpers Way at 4:26pm on 28 August but has not been seen since.

She could have taken one of several paths leading back towards her home in Hanwell.

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

During the fresh appeals, Mr Mehta stressed that the Latvian, who was also accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl in 2009, was just “one line of inquiry”.Police received 150 phone calls after staging a reconstruction of Alice’s last known movements.

Investigators said an area of disturbed earth at Elthorne Park in west London, which runs beside the canal towpath, was no longer of interest.

The latest development in the search came after Alice’s parents and police renewed appeals for information yesterday. Her mother, Rosalind Hodgkiss, said: “Every morning, as Alice’s disappearance grows longer and longer, brings new agony, new anguish.”

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

The general labourer, who worked at a building site in Isleworth, west London, is thought to have come to the UK in 2007, but authorities here apparently had no record of his conviction for bludgeoning and stabbing his wife Rudite to death in his native country.

He is described as white, 5ft 10in and of stocky build, with dark brown hair that he normally wears tied in a ponytail.

The Metropolitan Police said they are grateful for the specialist resources and support they have received from forces across Britain.