EDIT: on Saturday 4th October a body thought to be that of suspect Arnis Zalkalns was found in Boston Manor Park. I am going to keep this post up in memory of Alice.
This is not beekeeping related, but I feel the need to write about it.
A visitor to my local area might think we’re celebrating some kind of festival. Yellow ribbons festoon the lampposts and park railings, their cheerful colour waving in the breeze.
But there is nothing to celebrate. A month ago, on the 28th August, a young 14 year old girl named Alice Gross went missing. Like me, she liked walking and had gone out for a long walk alone along the nearby canal running through Hanwell. CCTV footage showed her apparently returning in the direction of home under one of the canal bridges.
At first it seemed hopeful that she might have run away. Perhaps she would return. Posters were put out in Hanwell, in Ealing, in West London generally. Her face smiled out at all the passers by. The yellow ribbons were tied as a sign of hope and support for her family, to raise awareness of her disappearance.
Then a week later her rucksack was discovered; it contained her shoes. This was bad – who would run away and leave their bag and shoes behind? Worse, in the middle of September the police revealed that they were searching for the 41-year-old Latvian builder Arnis Zalkalns, who himself had gone missing in early September. He is a convicted murderer in his home country. Having served seven years there for murdering his wife, a crime he confessed to, he was free to come to this country.
Yesterday Alice’s body was found in the canal.
No-one can return Alice to her family. But there must be someone out there who knows where Arnis Zalkalns is, or might spot him. He has quite an unusual and distinctive face, narrow and long with a prominent nose and chin. This is a photo of him as a young man:
And an older photo:
Zalkalns has been described as white, 5’10”, of stocky build and with dark brown hair that he normally wears tied in a pony tail.
Alice’s family deserve justice. And he needs to be stopped before this happens again. It’s worth mentioning that in 2009, Zalkalns was arrested for allegedly assaulting another fourteen year old teenager in Ealing. The case was dropped because she decided not to make a statement, but perhaps if support for victims were better, and courts less intimidating and accusatory towards victims, the outcome might have been different.
If you think you might have seen him since his disappearance, please please let the police know. Anyone with information on his whereabouts or that can assist the investigation is asked to call the incident room on 0208 358 0100, the police non-emergency line 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
More information on the case:
It’s all so sad Emily all the posters and yellow ribbons across Hanwell and spreading beyond into west London have made it quite emotional when driving through Hanwell. I had imagined been there when the news came through that she was found alive and well and a street party would immediately start but it’s not to be. I was moving my boat yesterday just so happened I was moving to Hanwell, but stopped a few locks down the flight as the police rightly have the area cordoned off. One of the Hanwell flight volunteers helped me through the locks before we had to stop. He said he remembered seeing this man sitting on a bench along the flight with a red bike and looked ill, as white as a ghost and physically shaken, he remembered him because he looked so odd and a week later Arnis Zalkalns and his bike went missing. Chilling thought to think the man on the bench could have been him.
Thanks Tom. It is so disturbing knowing that some people amongst us have these impulses. Where have you ended up moored?
One lock below the three bridges. Drove through Hanwell today and all the flowers were very moving brought a tear to my eye. Don’t want to move right now as I don’t want to be the first boat through that stretch of canal.
Me too. Apparently there have been queues out of the door at the town hall to sign the book for her family.
This is just a terrible, sad story. I hope that this monster is brought to justice and that his victims’ families are able to find some peace.
Thank you Julie, me too.
I wondered what was going on the day the poor girl was found – a great deal of Police activity, sirens etc around Chiswick / on the great west road. Now I know why. Let’s hope they locate this guy quickly, whether they then rule him in or (possibly) out of further inquiry… RH
I’d forgotten that you’re a west Londoner too. I hope he hasn’t managed to flee the country. Perhaps he’s lying low somewhere up north.
Very difficult to read . . .
Yes. She was so nearly home, so nearly safe.