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Memorial service for murdered Alice

The mother of murdered schoolgirl Alice Gross has spoken of her anger at her daughter's killing and how she misses all the hugs and snuggles she got from a teenager who still called her "mummy".

Ros Hodgkiss revealed she keeps asking herself if there was anything she could have done to prevent the "random, incomprehensible tragedy" of the 14-year-old's brutal slaying.

She and Alice's father Jose Gross spoke to hundreds of people who attended an emotional memorial service for the teenager Greenford, near her west London home, with scores waiting in the pouring rain beforehand to pay their respects.

Many of the assembled crowd were in tears as Mrs Hodgkiss said: "I have been numbed by shock and grief, I have felt outrage and anger at the loss of her life and unbelievable sadness at the emptiness that has been left.

"I have racked my brains for all the 'what ifs' of that day, anything that might have stopped this random, incomprehensible tragedy.

"It is even harder to talk about that pain than it is to talk about Alice. I cannot imagine life without Alice."

Mrs Hodgkiss added that she would miss Alice most on all the special family occasions, like Christmas, Alice's birthday on Valentine's Day, Mothers' Day and her own birthday.

She added: "I think of all the ... hugs, shared jokes, evenings spent snuggled on the sofa, goodnight kisses, the confidence of after-school conversations, Alice playing the piano in her dressing gown (and) singing, shopping, baking, the way Alice still called me 'mummy'."

Alice was buried 10 days ago in a private ceremony but her family held today's event to say thank you to all the people in the local community, who came together to help find her when she was missing and who rallied round after their worst fears were realised.

The service was played a recording of Alice singing and playing violin to Leonard Cohen's emotive song Hallelujah, with her father Jose joining her on guitar.

A video was also shown on a big screen at Greenford Hall of her performing one of her own songs, called Don't Go Away, in a rich and powerful voice.

Mr Gross paid tribute to the "extraordinary support" given to him, Ros and Alice's sister Nina.

A Facebook page set up to help find Alice attracted 22,000 followers, "yellow ribbons of hope" appeared across west London and 6,000 runners in the Ealing Half Marathon also wore them. After her body was found Hanwell Clock Tower became a focus for tributes to her.

"The response of the community was astonishing," Mr Gross added.

"I was amazed by how much people were touched by our ongoing tragedy and how much they cared.

"For five or so weeks the area became emblazoned in yellow ribbons, delivering a very powerful message of support to the public at large and anyone passing by.

"No one could pass through Hanwell and beyond without being aware that Alice was missing and that the community cared.

"When I felt very low the sight of the ribbons lifted my spirits."

Alice was last seen alive walking along a tow path in west London on August 28. It is believed that she was murdered by convicted killer Arnis Zalkalns, who was caught on CCTV following her on his bike.

Despite the biggest police search since the aftermath of the July 7 bombings, it was more than a month before her body was found weighted down in the bed of the River Brent, near her Hanwell home.

Zalkalns, who had previously served seven years for murdering his wife Rudite in his native Latvia, was found hanged in nearby Boston Manor Park on October 4, four weeks after he was reported missing.

In a message read by celebrant Caroline Black, Nina spoke of how Alice had made her laugh and their shared love of going for walks in the rain.

She added: "I wish I could have had one last chance to go on a walk with you in the pouring rain. The rain will not make me miserable like it does to most. It will make me smile as it reminds me of you."

Many of Alice's music teachers performed at the ceremony, with Serena Kay, her singing teacher, fighting back tears as she sang We're Walking In The Air, from the cartoon Christmas film The Snowman.

A sonnet written especially for the occasion by poet Brian Clark was also read out by Julian Bell, the leader of Ealing Council.

Alice's family asked that any donations be made to Alice's Youth Music Memorial Fund at

David O'Keeffe, spokesman for the National Foundation for Youth Music, which will benefit from the fund, said: "All of us at Youth Music are very grateful to the family for setting up Alice's Youth Music Memorial Fund in her memory.

"This will be a great help to us in continuing our work to provide music-making opportunities to over 90,000 young people every year.

"Many of them face significant challenges in their lives such as coping with poverty, disability, special needs or perhaps living in care.

"I imagine and hope from what I've heard today that Alice herself would have been pleased to have created a legacy to help these young people experience the joys of music making, as she did."

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