London

Alice Gross murder suspect Arnis Zalkalns not checked

Alice Gross Image copyright PA
Image caption Alice Gross, from Hanwell, in west London, disappeared on 28 August 2014

There was no policy for checking foreign nationals' criminal records when a convicted murderer, who is suspected of going on to kill Alice Gross, was arrested five years before her death, an inquest has heard.

Arnis Zalkalns was held in 2009 on suspicion of indecent assault, but faced no further action.

He became the prime suspect in Alice's murder, after she disappeared in 2014.

The inquest is examining why he was allowed to live unchecked in the UK.

It is also looking at whether failures by the government and the police contributed to her death.

Zalkalns, a Latvian national who first came to the UK in 2007, had been convicted of murdering his wife in his native country.

Murder conviction 'spent'

When he first came to the attention of UK police two years later, Det Supt Michael Forteath said, there was "no routine checking of individuals entering the UK".

Officers could have made a check, he said, but there was no policy, and the process was not widely known about.

He said there were systems in place to ask for records information and intelligence from a suspect's country of origin, but checks were only done on around 1 in 14 suspects.

"You would have to know you could undertake the check," he said. "You have to know how, what forms to use, to send to the central authority."

"You would have to believe the information you were asking for would have come back in enough time to be of use in the case you were dealing with."

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Arnis Zalkalns was convicted for murdering his wife in 1998

During the hunt for Alice, who disappeared on 28 August 2014, police did carry out an initial criminal record check of Zalkalns' history and nothing came back.

In September, after Arnis Zalkalns had become a suspect in Alice's disappearance, an initial check of his Latvian records came back with nothing because his murder conviction was considered "spent", the court heard.

Vincent Williams, representing the Met, said the policy had now changed and the number of staff employed by the ACRO Criminal Record Office to handle criminal checks had grown from five in 2009 to 130 last year.

The jury were told that requests for criminal records had increased so that 80% of foreign suspects were now checked.

Alice's body was found by a search team in the River Brent, near her home in Hanwell, west London on the 30 September 2014.

The inquest has already heard evidence that she had been sexually assaulted and asphyxiated.

Zalkalns was found hanged a few miles from where her body was found.

On Monday Alice's mother said she was stunned Zalkalns was not being monitored.

Reading from a prepared statement at the Royal Courts of Justice, Rosalind Hodgkiss said the family wanted to "establish whether or not the systems for monitoring foreign offenders and cross-border sharing of information are robust".

She added: "We appreciate that they may have changed significantly, but we remain stunned that a foreign national with a conviction for murder was not monitored, or even known about in any way.

"This has destroyed much of our faith in our country's ability to protect its citizens.

"The Home Office and the police forces nationwide should be doing everything they can to ensure that this should not be allowed to happen again."

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