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'Area of interest' in Alice search

Detectives investigating the disappearance of missing teenager Alice Gross have identified an "area of interest" in a park, Scotland Yard said.

Investigators today staged a reconstruction of the moments the teenager was last seen, on a towpath in west London four weeks ago.

She was last captured on CCTV at 4.26pm on August 28, walking alongside the Grand Union Canal going under a bridge where Trumpers Way crosses the canal.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed that a section of a park near the towpath was being assessed as part of the inquiry.

He said: "A s part of the ongoing search operation we have identified an area that is currently being assessed. It will be subject to further examination to determine if it is relevant to this investigation.

"The area of interest is in Elthorne Park."

As a massive police hunt for the 14-year-old continues, her parents Rosalind Hodgkiss and Jose Gross made a desperate renewed appeal for help in finding the schoolgirl.

Ms Hodgkiss, who is a teacher, said: "This has obviously been a very distressing time for the whole family and every morning as Alice's disappearance grows longer and longer brings new agony, new anguish.

"We're coping as best we can and we're trying to keep hopeful. We're making an appeal today to Alice, if she can hear us, that we want her to come home, that we miss her and love her."

The couple spoke from the family home in Hanwell, west London, as police made renewed appeals for help in finding Alice, and continued the manhunt for the prime suspect in her disappearance, convicted murderer Arnis Zalkans.

Ms Hodgkiss said: "We're missing everything about her. We miss her smile, her presence, her quirkiness, every single thing about her we miss, and we want her back home where she belongs."

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

But Alice's parents insisted they have complete faith in the police investigation, and said they want the focus to remain on finding their daughter.

Ms Hodgkiss said: "We accept that this is just one line of inquiry. Alice is still a missing person and we want the focus today to be on Alice. We have every confidence in the police and the way that they have been handling the investigation.

"We've been kept informed at every stage of the inquiry of all the different ways in which police have been looking for Alice, and we have full confidence in the way that they have been undertaking the investigation."

Mr Gross, 60, said: "We're 100% behind the police and we know they are 100% behind us."

He added: "Everybody's doing everything they possibly can, and they're obviously doing it as quickly as they can, but it's got to be done properly."

The couple said Alice had used social media, but they had warned her of the dangers involved and did not have any particular concerns about her going online.

Her 50-year-old mother said: "Alice used social media in the way that most teenagers use social media. She was often on her phone, she was often on the internet. Quite a lot of the time she was browsing - online window shopping. She took a lot of selfies.

"But we don't have any particular concerns. Like any other parent we talked about the dangers of online use."

Alice's father said: "We made sure that she was well aware of what the issues could be."

Police are currently staging a search which is the largest use of such resources since the aftermath of the July 7 bombings, with hundreds of officers involved in an operation that includes scouring dozens of miles of waterways and riverbanks.

The couple made renewed appeals for anyone with information to come forward.

Ms Hodgkiss said: " If you saw anything at all on that day, or if you know anything at all about what might have happened to her or about where she might be, (we ask) that you come forward now.

"It's four weeks now since she disappeared and obviously we get more and more worried about her welfare and more desperate really. So please if you do know anything, please bring that information forward to the police."

Mr Gross added: "No matter how insignificant you think it might be, please do come forward. Don't hold back, anything is better than nothing."

Yellow ribbons festoon the area of west London where the family live, along with posters highlighting the teenager's disappearance.

Speaking today at the spot where Alice was last seen, Detective Superintendent Carl Mehta said she was "power walking" along the towpath.

He said: "Alice's walk was quite distinctive that day - she walked along the footpath quite fast, swinging her arms. One could describe it as a power walk.

"We know that at 4.26pm that Thursday she passed underneath this bridge. That is the last confirmed sighting of Alice.

"What I really need help from the public about is what happened after this point - Where did Alice go? Did you see anybody with her?"

Five cyclists were riding behind Alice when she was last captured on CCTV, and they took shelter under the bridge when it began to rain, while the teenager continued walking.

So far three of the cyclists have come forward.

The teenager had walked along the towpath away from Hanwell earlier that afternoon, and was filmed on CCTV taking the route.

Once she had turned around and was walking back in the opposite direction, she was filmed only up until the Trumpers Way bridge.

Mr Mehta said: "What I can say is that at 4.26pm, Alice is seen on the camera underneath the bridge. However, she is not picked up on any other cameras.

"There are a number of footpaths that lead off the towpath, including a footpath that leads by the River Brent, which would lead to Hanwell bridge.

"She could have taken any number of those. Where did she go? Did she turn right along the footpaths into any other paths?"

The teenager was carrying a "very distinct" purple rucksack, he added, and police are trying to track what happened to the bag between August 28 and September 2 when it was found on a path by the River Brent.

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