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Man sought in missing Alice hunt

Detectives investigating the disappearance of schoolgirl Alice Gross say they are searching for a man who has been missing for nearly two weeks.

Fourteen-year-old Alice was last seen on August 28, when she was last spotted on CCTV by the Grand Union Canal in west London.

Scotland Yard has now appealed for the public's help to trace Latvian builder Arnis Zalkalns who was last seen at his home in Ealing, west London, on September 3.

The 41-year-old, who lives with his partner and child, is known to travel to work along a similar route to that which Alice took on the day she disappeared, police said.

The fresh appeal comes as a 25-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder on September 6 was told he faces no further action.

Meanwhile, officers revealed a couple have come forward to report a sighting of Alice's rucksack which will feature in a television appeal on tonight's Crimewatch.

A 51-year-old man, who was arrested by officers on suspicion of murder on September 7, was released with no further action the following day.

Detective Superintendent Carl Mehta, from the Met's Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "It is completely out of character for Arnis to go missing. His family is very worried about him. I am asking for anyone who has seen him, or knows where he is to get in touch.

"Given the time that Arnis was last seen, and that he travels to work along a similar route to the one we know Alice took on August 28, I am really keen to speak to him. At this stage, we simply want to speak to him, as he may well have important information that can help our search for Alice.

"I would stress that based on what we know now there is no evidence to suggest that Arnis and Alice knew each other. This continues to be a fast moving investigation, and this is one of a number of lines of inquiry that we are urgently looking into."

Mr Zalkalns is believed to have left home early on Thursday, September 4, police said.

He was due to meet a friend at around 8am to cycle to work in Isleworth together but he failed to turn up that morning. His normal route would take him along the Grand Union Canal where Alice went missing.

He rides a red Trek mountain bike and was reported missing on Friday, September 5, police said.

Mr Zalkalns is white, 5'10", of stocky build and with dark brown hair that he normally wears tied in a pony tail, Scotland Yard.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Chalmers will be live in the studio during tonight's Crimewatch, using CCTV images to show Alice's last known movements between 1pm when she left her Hanwell home and 4.26pm when she walked along Trumpers Way, towards Hanwell.

Her Vans rucksack was found by the River Brent a week and a half ago, but no money or purse was inside and her white iPhone 4S with a distinctive cracked case has yet to be found.

Officers previously said her missing smartphone may hold "key" information about her disappearance. The device last connected to the network at just after 5pm on August 28.

A couple saw Alice's bag on August 28 at about 8.15pm on the footpath that runs besides the River Brent between Hanwell Bridge and the Grand Union Canal.

They did not move the bag or look inside it, Scotland Yard added.

Mr Chalmers said police had no evidence that the anorexic schoolgirl was being bullied on social media but hoped finding her phone might uncover any secret communications she might have had.

He said her family has been left "devastated" by her disappearance. Her parents Jose Gross and Rosalind Hodgkiss, and her sister Nina, have already recorded appeals for her to come home.

Mr Chalmers said: "Over two weeks ago now Alice left home, just as normal, and went for a walk. She has not been seen since.

"The response so far from the public has been great, but as yet we have no confirmed sightings of Alice after 4.30pm that day.

"I am really keen to trace Alice's phone, which I know has not been used since late afternoon on the day she was last seen. It is a white iPhone 4S, with a distinctive cracked rear case that Alice had decorated with marker pen. If you saw, or currently have, Alice's phone please get in touch.

"Alice's family are devastated. They think about her constantly. If you have any information that can help us bring Alice back to her family, no matter how small or trivial it may seem to you, please call us."

Mr Chalmers previously said Alice had been going through a "difficult time" and had been undergoing medical treatment for her anorexia but that there had been no family argument before she disappeared.

Alice's phone was last actively used to send a text message to her father shortly after 3pm on the day she disappeared.

Police believe this text shows that at this stage she was planning to go home, but may have extended her walk to kill time waiting for him to return home at 6pm as she did not have a key.

Alice is white, 5ft 2ins tall, of very slim build and has shoulder-length, light brown hair.

She was last seen wearing dark blue jeans and a dark green lacy cardigan and carrying the dark rucksack.

Appealing for people to think whether they saw Alice on the afternoon she disappeared, Mr Chalmers said she was "very identifiable".

"Alice was a very thin person, it would have stuck in people's minds," he added.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the investigation team on 020 8358 0100, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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