Phone Clue To Missing Alice Case

Met Police have released a missing battered iPhone belonging to disappeared schoolgirl Alice Gross may hold key information that may help find her.

The white iPhone 4S with a distinctive cracked case the 14-year-old had colourfully decorated herself has yet to be found, two weeks since she vanished in west London, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Chalmers said.

He revealed that her black Vans rucksack, found by the edge of the River Brent, contained a change of underwear and also the Vans denim trainers she is believed to have been wearing when she left home on August 28.

But he also said the bag had been disturbed by two builders working nearby before being returned to where they found it, and it was possible other people had rifled it and moved it and its contents as well.

Mr Chalmers said that Alice, who was being treated for anorexia, was last seen on CCTV at around 4.30pm on August 28, but her iPhone continued to connect to the network until shortly after 5pm.

He called on anyone who might have picked up her smartphone to contact police as soon as possible.

Mr Chalmers said: "We know her profile online and we know a lot of the activity online, but we are also seeking to identify whether there is any hidden activity.

"That is one of the key reasons ... why we want to recover her iPhone.

"As any young person, she uses her iPhone as the predominant means of connecting to the internet, so there could very well be info there that would be absolutely key to understanding what she may have been planning."

He added that the white iPhone has a cracked case, whose cracks had been coloured in by Alice using felt tip pens.

More than 200 police officers and staff from five forces are now involved in what remains a missing persons inquiry, he said.

Alice's parents Jose Gross and Rosalind Hodgkiss, and her sister Nina, have recorded a fresh appeal for her to come home, saying they are "desperately worried".

In a short audio statement released by Scotland Yard, Nina said: "Alice we love you, we miss you, you are not in any trouble and we just want you to come home.

"Please let someone know you are safe."

Alice's phone was last actively used to send a text message to her father at around 3pm on the day she disappeared.

Police said the text exchange was about what time her father was going to arrive home in Hanwell from work, as no one else was there and she did not have a key.

Police believe that this text shows that at this stage she was planning to go home, but may have extended her walk to kill time waiting for him to return home at 6pm.

Alice's bag also contained the remains of a packed lunch when it was found on September 2, but no money or purse.

DCI Chalmers said: "We know that Alice's bag was first found the day after she was last seen by two builders, who we have spoken to, who put it back down in the same spot on the towpath. What we do not know is if anyone saw or found Alice's bag between when she was last caught on CCTV and when the builders found it.

"I need to know if anyone found Alice's bag before the builders and was anything taken from it, or if anyone has her iPhone."

Two men have so far been arrested on suspicion of murder by officer probing Alice's disappearance.

A 25-year-old was bailed until mid-September and a 51-year-old arrested in Hanwell was released without charge.

Specialist police divers in black wetsuits and breathing apparatus have been combing the west London waterway where she was last spotted.

Sniffer dog handlers with a golden Labrador have taken to the canal on a red dinghy boat to scan it for evidence.

Police have scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and carried out "extensive" searches using specialist officers in the hunt for the missing schoolgirl.

Alice is white, 5ft 2ins tall, of very slim build and has shoulder-length, light brown hair.

She was last seen wearing dark blue jeans and a dark green lacy cardigan and carrying the dark rucksack.