Latvian builder Arnis Zalkalns, who killed his wife and is now being hunted in connection with the disappearance of Alice Gross, is urged to give himself up by a former girlfriend who reveals how he was accused of drugging and molesting a teenager in London in 2009.
The prime suspect in the disappearance of schoolgirl Alice Gross was accused of drugging and molesting a 14-year-old girl in London in 2009, it has now emerged.
Latvian builder Arnis Zalkalns, who served a seven year prison sentence in his home country for the brutal murder of his wife, moved to Britain in 2007 after getting out of jail.
But just two years later he was arrested by the Metropolitan Police after a 14-year-old girl claimed that he had drugged her before sexually assaulting her.
Police are now desperate to trace the 41-year-old, after it emerged that he disappeared just days after Alice, 14, went missing while walking along the same route he took to work every day.
Scotland Yard formally linked Mr Zalkalns to the investigation last week after details of his murder conviction were passed on by the Latvian authorities.
The Met refused to disclose details of his 2009 arrest for sexual assault, but his ex-girlfriend and the mother of two of his children, revealed he had been accused of drugging and molesting a teenager in a London street.
She said he had always denied the allegation and had insisted he had been trying to help the girl who he claimed was drunk.
The case was eventually dropped after the girl withdrew her statement and Mr Zalkalns was never charged in relation to the alleged attack.
Speaking from her mother's home in the Latvian port city of Liepaja, Liga Rubezniece, 34, who began a relationship with Mr Zalkalns while he was still serving a prison sentence for murder, said: “He told me about this when it happened. He said he saw her crawling across the street when he went over to help her.
“He said he was worried about her being knocked over when she was crossing the road. It was a busy road somewhere in London.
“He picked her up and walked her to the side of the road. He says he gave her his mobile phone to ring her parents but instead she rang the police. She told the police officers she had been drugged and attacked by him.
“I don't believe this. He was investigated by the police and they closed the case. She was very, very drunk at the time.”
Miss Rubezniece urged her former partner to give himself up, but refused to accept that he could have anything to do with the disappearance of Alice.
She said she last heard from him on August 29, the day after Alice went missing, but said she believed he was still alive.
She told the Telegraph: “The last message I got from Arnis was on the 29th of August. He sent me a text message about putting money into my bank account for our children. It was for 133 euros."
“There was money due to come on the 14th September but it did not arrive. The first I heard Arnis was missing was when I got a telephone call from his sister, Jolanta. She was worried about him.
“Then I tried to call Arnis and I couldn't get through. The phone kept going dead. There was nothing. It is strange because he is very good about picking up the phone. He always picks up the phone when he knows it's me calling.
“Just because he was on the same path 15 minutes after Alice doesn't mean that he did it. I hope that both Arnis and the girl are both somewhere safe and sound.”
She added: “I hope nothing terrible has happened to him. He is a very strong person, both physically and mentally. He is not the sort of person who would have been badly affected if he saw something happen to Alice. He is not a monster and he has never hurt me in any way.”
The police operation to find Alice is now the largest by the Met since the 7/7 bombings with more than 600 officers from eight forces involved.
Meanwhile questions remain over how a convicted murderer released from prison on licence was able to travel to the UK without supervision.
One criminal justice expert claims there are up to 40 convicted Latvians living in Britain who are being supervised by their parole officers at home via email.
Harry Fletcher, a former assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, and now director of Digital Trust, a charity campaigning against online abuse, said a loophole in the system meant they only had to check in once a fortnight via email and do not even have to reveal where they live.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee said: “The British people deserve to feel secure. An updated system of checks needs to flag high-risk people at the point of entry to prevent criminals coming here.”