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Coroner issues legal ruling as Alice Gross inquest jury begins deliberations

Published 01/07/2016

Alice Gross disappeared from her home in Hanwell, west London, on August 28 2014 (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Alice Gross disappeared from her home in Hanwell, west London, on August 28 2014 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

A coroner has told a jury that evidence given at the inquest into the killing of schoolgirl Alice Gross - who is believed to have died at the hands of a foreign criminal - does not support conclusions that would "imply that any actions or inactions" of the Home Office or police "caused or contributed" to her death.

Dr Fiona Wilcox announced her legal ruling on the fifth day of the hearing into the circumstances surrounding the 14-year-old's death in 2014.

She told the jury of eight men and three women: "As a matter of law - and this is extremely important - I am instructing you that the evidence in this case does not support any final conclusions that would imply that any actions or inactions of the Home Office or police caused or contributed to Alice's death, and therefore no such findings may be reached."

Builder Arnis Zalkalns, who had served a prison sentence for murdering his wife in his native Latvia, is believed to have killed Alice in a sexually motivated attack.

The schoolgirl, described as "hugely talented" by the coroner, disappeared from her home in Hanwell, west London, on August 28 2014.

Her body was found on September 30 in the River Brent after Scotland Yard conducted its biggest search since the July 7 2005 London bombings.

Zalkalns was discovered hanged in a park on October 4 and police said the 41-year-old would have been charged with Alice's murder had he been alive.

Alice's father Jose Gross, sister Nina and mother Ros Hodgkiss were present in court on Friday as the coroner announced her ruling on the law at the inquest, which is being heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

On the first day of the proceedings on Monday, Ms Hodgkiss read a prepared statement to the jury in which she said the family "remain stunned" that Zalkalns was "not monitored or even known about in any way" after he came to the UK.

Dr Wilcox told the jurors on Friday that they had a "considerable amount of work to do".

They were being asked to make "findings and determinations in relation to Alice's death", but there were "legal directions which you must follow".

After completing her summing up of the evidence, the coroner sent the jury out to begin its deliberations.

The jury has been asked to consider a number of issues.

1. Whether Arnis Zalkalns was "responsible for the death of Alice".

2. If so, "was this unlawful killing by either murder or unlawful and dangerous act manslaughter".

3. Whether Zalkalns had been convicted of murder in Latvia in 1998.

4. Whether he was "recognised as having a murder conviction on entry to the UK in 2007".

5. Whether Zalkalns was "recognised as having a murder conviction on his subsequent entries and exits to the UK".

6. Whether from November 4 2011 "there was a universal system in place at the UK border to check persons leaving and entering the UK against a 'watch list'".

7. Whether Zalkalns was ever on this "watch list".

8. Whether Latvian authorities ever placed him on the list.

9. Whether being on the list "would have afforded the opportunity to detain him and potentially prevent his entry into the UK or removal from it."

10. Whether in 2009 there was a system to check for foreign convictions for those arrested by the police.

11. Whether a "foreign conviction check for Arnis Zalkalns was carried out on his arrest in 2009".

12. Whether "if such a check had been carried out it would have detected his Latvian convictions".

13. Whether Zalkalns "came to the attention of the UK authorities between 2009 and Alice's death in 2014".

The jury will continue its deliberations on Monday morning.

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