London

Body thought to be Arnis Zalkalns is removed from park

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Media captionJane-Frances Kelly reports: ''The police say there are early indications that it is Arnis Zalkalns''

A body believed to be that of Arnis Zalkalns, the prime suspect in the murder of Alice Gross, has been removed from a London park by police.

The badly-decomposed corpse was discovered in dense woodland in Boston Manor Park, west London, on Saturday.

Alice, 14, from Hanwell, west London, disappeared on 28 August. Her body was found in the River Brent on Tuesday.

On Sunday afternoon, dozens of officers lined-up in the park and searched through the grass.

Police said further searches were to look for any further evidence and they were not searching for anything in particular.

While formal identification of the body is yet to take place, Zalkalns' partner has been informed of the find, Scotland Yard said.

Image caption On Sunday afternoon, dozens of officers were lined-up in the park searching through the grass with sticks
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The body was found in Boston Manor Park in west London

Alice was last seen walking along the Grand Union Canal and 41-year-old Zalkalns was filmed cycling minutes behind her on the same route the day she vanished.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Although no formal identification has been made, early indications suggest the body may be that of Arnis Zalkalns.

"We have updated his partner and a family liaison officer is supporting her."

The body has been taken to a west London mortuary.

Police officers were posted at all entrances to the park, which backs on to the River Brent, following the discovery of the body on Saturday afternoon.

Zalkalns was last seen at his Ealing home on 3 September.

The builder, from Latvia, served seven years in prison in his native country for bludgeoning and stabbing his wife Rudite to death before moving to the UK in 2007.

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Arnis Zalkalns was last seen on 3 September - a week after Alice Gross disappeared
Image copyright Met Police handout
Image caption Police officers from several forces took part in the search for the teenager

When police found Alice's body on Tuesday they said significant efforts had been made to conceal it.

Her post-mortem examination at Uxbridge mortuary took two days due to the "complex nature" of the investigation, Scotland Yard said.

Further tests are to be carried out on the teenager's body after the post-mortem proved inconclusive.

Hundreds of messages have been added to a book of condolence set up in Ealing town hall, the council's leader Julian Bell said.

He said people "queued out the door" at one stage as they waited patiently in line to pay their respects.

The book will eventually be passed on to Alice's family, while talks will be held at a later stage over the prospect of a permanent memorial, he added.

'Much loved'

Following the discovery of Alice's body, her parents Rosalind Hodgkiss and Jose Gross said: "Why anyone would want to hurt her is something that we are struggling to come to terms with.

"Alice was a loving and much loved daughter and sister, a quirky live spark of a girl, beautiful inside and out."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Flowers have been left at the Hanwell clock tower in memory of Alice
Image copyright PA
Image caption An ambulance transported the body to a west London mortuary

Scotland Yard said Alice's family were being kept abreast of the latest developments, but added: "Officers are still searching for evidence, and once again appeal to the public for any information that could assist them."

People living near the park have expressed their alarm at the discovery of a body so close to them.

A 57-year-old woman who only gave her first name, Zahra, said: "I used to like this park, but now I feel it's not a safe place.

"I have been very upset about Alice Gross, I couldn't sleep when the body was found."

Ingrid Zalalis, 46, who was with her daughter, said: "We also go on our bicycles near the canal, and spent a lot of time looking there after Alice went missing.

"There are areas in these woods where people don't go."

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