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iPhone clue to missing Alice case

Alice Gross's missing smartphone may hold "key" information about the schoolgirl's mysterious disappearance, Scotland Yard has revealed.

The white iPhone 4S with a distinctive cracked case has yet to be found two weeks on from the 14-year-old's disappearance in west London, despite her bag being located on a riverbank.

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

He urged anyone who may have picked it up after she disappeared on August 28 to come forward without fear of arrest, saying: "We know her profile online and we know a lot of the activity online, but we are also seeking to identify whether there is any hidden activity.

"That is one of the key reasons ... why we want to recover her iPhone.

"As any young person, she uses her iPhone as the predominant means of connecting to the internet, so there could very well be information there that would be absolutely key to understanding what she may have been planning."

Alice's parents Jose Gross and Rosalind Hodgkiss, and her sister Nina, recorded a fresh appeal for her to come home, saying they are "desperately worried".

In a short audio statement released by Scotland Yard, Nina said: "Alice we love you, we miss you, you are not in any trouble and we just want you to come home.

"Please let someone know you are safe."

Mr Chalmers added that 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.

Two men have so far been arrested on suspicion of murder by officer probing Alice's disappearance.

A 25-year-old was bailed until mid-September and a 51-year-old arrested in Hanwell was released without charge.

More than 200 police officers and staff from five police forces, The Met, Dyfed-Powys, Surrey, Sussex and Thames Valley, are now involved in what remains a missing persons inquiry.

Police have scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and carried out "extensive" searches using specialist units including divers and sniffer dogs.

Police revealed that Alice's Vans rucksack, found by the River Brent a week ago, had initially been removed by a couple of builders working nearby, who searched it before returning it to where they found it.

The bag contained the remains of a packed lunch, a change of underwear and a pair of Vans trainers she was thought to have been wearing when she left home. Police believe she may have taken another pair of shoes with her or bought some new ones at a nearby shopping centre she walked to.

No money or purse was found.

Mr Chalmers said her white iPhone has a cracked case, whose cracks had been coloured in by Alice using felt tip pens.

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

Police said the text exchange was about what time her father was going to arrive home from work, as no one else was at the house and she did not have a key.

Police believe that 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.

She was last spotted on CCTV by the Grand Union Canal at 4.26pm, but her phone last connected to the network at just after 5pm.

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.

Mr Chalmers added: "There must be numerous people who must have seen Alice at various stages of her walk, she is very identifiable. Alice was a very thin person, it would have stuck in people's minds."

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