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Park area ruled out of Alice search

A potential lead in the search for missing teenager Alice Gross was ruled out today as police said an area of disturbed earth in a park was no longer of interest.

Investigators had overnight cordoned off parts of Elthorne Park in west London, which runs beside the towpath where the 14-year-old was walking before she vanished.

But Scotland Yard confirmed shortly after midday today that an area in the park thought to be of interest was not relevant to the hunt for the teenager.

A spokesman said: " As part of the ongoing search operation last night we identified an area in Elthorne Park. The area was identified by the search team as disturbed earth and police dogs were deployed.

"A full assessment has now been carried out, which has determined this area is not of relevance to the investigation into Alice's disappearance."

Search teams have been active in the park, with a series of cordons in place - one covering a rectangular area of grass around 50 yards by 70 yards and extending a short distance down a bank.

Two police vehicles were parked inside the section and uniformed officers stood guard. One forensics officer could be seen, and a white tent had been erected.

Another area a short distance away was taped off, with three uniformed officers positioned near the cordon. A spotlight could be seen.

Officers in diving gear were later seen scouring a boggy overgrown area next to the river.

The latest development in the increasingly desperate hunt for the teenager came after her parents and police renewed appeals for information yesterday, four weeks since she was last seen.

Her mother Rosalind Hodgkiss said: "Every morning, as Alice's disappearance grows longer and longer, brings new agony, new anguish."

Investigators staged a reconstruction of the schoolgirl doing a "power walk" on the towpath next to the Grand Union Canal as it passes under Trumpers Way.

She was caught on CCTV at that point at 4.26pm on August 28 and has not been seen since.

Convicted murderer Arnis Zalkalns, who is the prime suspect in her disappearance and has also vanished, was filmed cycling the same route behind the teenager.

During the refreshed appeals, Detective Superintendent Carl Mehta stressed that killer Zalkalns - who was also accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl in 2009 - was just "one line of inquiry".

The force has come under fire for delays in identifying Zalkalns as a risk, and Commander Graham McNulty admitted on Wednesday that British detectives would have no power to arrest him if he has fled abroad.

Mr Mehta said: "Arnis Zalkalns is a suspect in this inquiry but he is only one line in a significant number of lines of inquiry.

"We are seeking Arnis Zalkalns. We are liaising with our Latvian colleagues but actually also our colleagues all over Europe and elsewhere."

Alice, who was apparently not picked up on CCTV after 4.26pm, could have taken one of several paths leading off the towpath back towards her home in Hanwell, he said.

Zalkalns, 41, went missing on September 3, after the murder squad took over the hunt for the teenager, and this was reported to police two days later on September 5.

He served seven years in prison after he was convicted of bludgeoning and stabbing his wife Rudite Zalkalns to death in his native country.

The general labourer, 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.

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

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