Alice murder probe ‘still live’

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Published: Thursday 9th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The investigation into the murder of Alice Gross is still “live” despite the prime suspect being found hanged and searches will continue for at least another two weeks, a senior police officer has said.

Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey today defended the amount of time it had taken to find the 14-year-old’s body, despite Scotland Yard staging the biggest search operation since the aftermath of the July 7 bombings.

The schoolgirl went missing on August 28 and it took more than a month for specialist search teams to find her body, which was hidden under logs in the bed of the River Brent in west London.

Convicted killer Arnis Zalkalns, the prime suspect in her murder, was then found hanged in nearby Boston Manor Park on October 4, four weeks after he was reported missing to the police.

Under questioning from members of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee at City Hall today Mr Mackey said investigators have at least two weeks of searches left to complete in the inquiry

He told members: “The searches go on. We are talking about something that is still live.”

The force came under fire for apparent delays in identifying Zalkalns, who vanished on September 3 and was reported missing two days later, as a suspect.

It took another two weeks for officers trawling through CCTV to realise that he had been following Alice when she was last seen on a towpath by the Grand Union Canal.

A review of how the case was handled is currently being carried out by Scotland Yard.

When asked why it had taken specialist search teams so long to find Alice and Zalkalns, he insisted that the “colossal” hunt had to take time.

Officers from 17 other police forces were drafted in to help with the operation, including underwater experts from five other forces and victim detection dogs and dog handlers from four outside the Met.

Mr Mackey said: “T his has been a huge search and absolutely what would have been success in that search would have been finding Alice alive.

“But being absolutely realistic, when you have search parameters of this size it takes an awful long time. And there is not a huge amount of experience across the country of doing this. When you talk to senior investigating officers they start usually from a crime scene and a body, you start from a completely different place.”

An inquest into Alice’s death is due to be opened and adjourned tomorrow.

Mr Mackey continued: “It’s an incredibly complex picture that involved a huge amount of people in that search. Ideally yes you would always hope that you could find things quicker, but sadly history tells us when you do this, when you look at the events in Dyfed Powys with April (Jones), all the way through to Milly Dowler in Surrey, searches of this nature, if you do them properly and thoroughly, sadly take an awful long time.”

Earlier this week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe also defended the way the force had handled the case, insisting search teams worked “incredibly hard”.

Speaking to BBC London Radio, he said: “I’m not sure what more we could have done but we would have loved to have found them both quicker. These things aren’t always as straightforward as they appear on first looking.”

Published: Thursday 9th October 2014 by The News Editor

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