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Search for missing Alice continues

Specialist teams are continuing a painstaking search of shallow waterways and riverbanks in the hunt for missing 14-year-old Alice Gross and a convicted murderer who is the prime suspect in her disappearance.

Frogmen and officers wearing forensic suits were examining the River Brent and its banks near Ealing Hospital in west London today, as Scotland Yard carries out the biggest search operation since the July 7 bombings.

The force has come under fire for taking four days to ask Latvian authorities for help in finding killer Arnis Zalkalns, who served seven years in prison after he was convicted of bludgeoning and stabbing his wife Rudite Zalkalns to death in his native country.

He went missing on September 3, six days after Alice was last seen walking alongside the Grand Union Canal in west London on August 28.

She was caught on CCTV that afternoon walking back towards her home in Hanwell, and Zalkalns, who was convicted of murder in 1998, was seen 15 minutes later riding past the same spot on a mountain bike.

He left his passport at his house in Ealing, west London, and police in Latvia confirmed he has not entered the country by plane but conceded it was possible he could have got in undetected if he travelled by car or coach.

It has also emerged that he was arrested on suspicion of indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the UK in 2009, but no further action was taken.

The Metropolitan Police said that 600 officers from eight forces have searched nine square miles of open land and 3.4 miles of canals and rivers in the largest deployment of search assets for an ongoing investigation since the terrorist attacks of 2005.

Scotland Yard have insisted they have no evidence to suggest that Alice, who suffers from anorexia, has come to harm.

General labourer Zalkalns, who works 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 murder conviction.

A reward of up to £20,000 is being offered for anyone who has information that leads detectives to find Alice.

Zalkalns is white, 5ft 10ins and stocky, with dark brown hair that he normally wears tied in a pony tail.

Police have said that he "potentially poses a risk to the public" and have asked anyone who sees him not to approach him and to dial 999.

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