Police on Wednesday said they had found a body in a London river following a sweeping search for missing teenager Alice Gross and were now hunting a Latvian suspect.
The 14-year-old went missing more than a month ago while walking along a canal in west London and the Latvian man, a convicted murderer, was seen nearby at the same time.
The suspect, Arnis Zalkalns, who served eight years in prison in Latvia for stabbing his wife and burying her in a forest, has been missing and police believe he may have returned to his home country.
There is no European arrest warrant out for the 41-year-old man.
Hundreds of officers joined the search for Alice in the biggest police operation since suicide bomb attacks in London in 2005. Royal Air Force drones were even used to find potential movements on the ground to focus on.
The officer, who led the search, said the find was made in the night and “significant efforts were made to conceal the body”.
The River Brent where the body was found links to the Grand Union Canal where the teenager was last seen walking.
Thousands of yellow ribbons have been hung around the Hanwell area in west London where Alice’s family lives in the past few weeks in solidarity.
Local member of parliament Steve Pond said the investigation had shown up “pretty horrific gaps” in information sharing between European Union countries, adding that British police should have been made aware of Zalkalns’s murder conviction.
Zalkalns, who moved to Britain in 2007 after serving his sentence, was arrested but then released in 2009 following an accusation from another 14-year-old girl who said he had drugged and sexually assaulted her, British media reported.