April Jones search continues as police question suspect
Extra officers and mountain rescue teams are being drafted in to search for the missing five-year-old April Jones, police said on Wednesday morning.
As detectives continued to question a 46-year-old suspect, police said they would press ahead with a “methodical and systematic” search of the area around the town of Machynlleth in mid-Wales.
Superintendent Ian John, the local police commander, said he hoped as the day went on, more information would come from the suspect, a local man called Mark Bridger who is known to April’s family.
John said: “I’m afraid to say I don’t have any news on April’s whereabouts but we continue to pursue the search areas. As today goes on and further interviews with the person in custody take place we anticipate intelligence coming out of those interviews which are going to drive where the police search operation will go.”
He said Machynlleth and the surrounding areas continued to be the main focus for the search.
John said the police had been “overwhelmed” by members of the public volunteering to help search. But he said the conditions were “challenging” and the River Dovey, which runs through Machynlleth, was in flood. He said he was worried that people might put their own safety at risk and asked them to leave the hunt to the police and mountain rescue teams.
John said more than 40 “trained and skilled” officers, along with mountain rescue teams, had worked through the night. More officers from neighbouring forces were joining the search in the morning. “We are doing everything we can to find April and bring her back to her family,” he said.
On Tuesday night, April’s family said their lives had been “shattered” and appealed for help in getting her home.
In a statement, they said: “Our lives were shattered when our beautiful little girl April, who was playing with friends, was taken from us. We are devastated and our lives have stopped.
“Please, please, if you have our little girl let her come home to us. This is such a small, close-knit community and we plead with anyone who has information, no matter how small they may think it is, to contact the police immediately. Please help us bring home our beautiful girl.”
Bridger, who lives a few streets away from April’s home, was detained on Tuesday afternoon, around 20 hours after she was snatched from her home on Monday evening. He was found walking down a road near Machynlleth just before April’s parents, Coral, 40, and Paul, 43, were about to appear in person to appeal for help.
Instead of the parents appearing, the senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan, of Dyfed-Powys police, said a 46-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of abduction. He said he hoped the arrest would lead to the discovery of April. “We are still searching for April as if she is alive and we will continue to do so,” he said.
It is believed the police had been searching for the man for some hours.
“We knew he was in the area, we’ve been anxious to trace him and speak to him,” said Bevan. “He came into the inquiry as a result of initial investigations and we have been anxious to trace him. He has a vehicle similar to what was seen near to where April went missing.”
At another press conference hours later, Bevan gave details of a vehicle that police were examining: a left-hand drive mid-90s Land Rover Discovery. April is said to have got into the driver’s side or the passenger side of a left-hand drive van-like vehicle.
It is known that police are identifying known paedophiles that might be living in the area as one line of inquiry. Police also confirmed they are looking at possible links between April’s abduction and a suspected attempt last week. A driver was seen “acting suspiciously” in the Aberystwyth area, the apparent target being a young schoolboy.
April went missing as she played on her bike with friends near her home on the Bryn-y-Gog estate around 7pm on Monday. The seven-year-old friend she was playing with spoke to specially trained officers and told them that apparently April got into the car “willingly”.
April’s disappearance triggered the first nationwide child rescue alert in the UK. The alert has never been used across the country like this before, partly because suspected stranger-abductions are rare.
Charlie Hedges, manager of the missing, abducted and kidnapped children section within the Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit (Ceop), said the decision to launch the alert was made because the risk to April was so great, and in the knowledge that to do so could swamp the investigating team. A team from Ceop has travelled to Wales to work with Dyfed-Powys police.
Police forces across the country – including the Metropolitan police – have offered support to the small rural force. There were nationwide alerts out and police were also looking through CCTV footage from private homes, municipal cameras and the road network.
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