April Jones abduction: Police praise Machynlleth response

Volunteers join the search for April Jones Volunteers join the search for April Jones

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Dyfed-Powys Police have praised the "tremendous response" from the community since five-year-old April Jones was abducted while playing outside her home.

Hundreds of people joined in the search for April overnight around Machynlleth, and the leisure centre was jam packed with helpers on Tuesday.

Even refuse collections were suspended as council workers volunteered to help.

One mother of a friend of April's said the response was "overwhelming".

April was playing with friends near her home when she got into a van, apparently willingly say police, at 19:00 BST on Monday.

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You don't expect this sort of thing to happen in a small town like Aberystwyth”

End Quote Sian Rees Family friend

She has not been seen since and police are appealing for anyone with information to contact a special hotline on 0300 2000 333.

Sian Rees, 29, whose five-year-old son is one of April's best friends, lives opposite her and her family in Bryn-y-Gog.

As deputy manager of the town's Bro Ddyfi Leisure Centre, Mrs Rees has been helping to feed the hundreds of volunteers helping in the search for the five-year-old.

She was on duty when news broke about April's disappearance on Monday night and immediately offered the centre as a base for the search.

"We've had local shops supplying us with food and drink, while the local branch of the Principality Building Society has donated some money to help fund what we're doing here," she said.

She said people started coming into the centre on Monday night with leaflets about April's disappearance.

"They wanted to use our photocopier. I phoned the police and offered the centre as a base," she said.

Leaflet appealing for information Leaflets appealing for information have been printed

"Since then the response has been absolutely overwhelming.

"We've had volunteers [searching] from as far afield as Manchester, Shrewsbury and Wrexham come to help, along with local people.

"A business in Aberystwyth is going to supply the people searching tonight with torches and waterproof clothing."

She said April had asked her son to go out and play on Monday night but he refused because he was on his computer.

"She's best buddies with my son," she said.

"She's visited my house to play with my son. I don't know her parents very well."

April is a "lovely little girl", she said.

Mrs Rees said April had been swimming on Monday afternoon before the incident happened.

"You don't expect this sort of thing to happen in a small town like Aberystwyth," she added.

Mayor of Machynlleth Gareth Jones said people had travelled from outside of the area to help.

One of them, retired chef Dewi Morgan, 61, from Ystrad Mynach, near Caerphilly, drove more than 100 miles to Machynlleth to help with the search.

Mr Morgan is also a photographer and said he knew the hills around the Powys town and might be able to help find April.

Children's toys discarded in the estate near where April Jones lives Children's toys discarded on the estate near where April Jones lives

"I saw the little girl had gone missing last night and thought she'd be found this morning but when I heard she hadn't I drove up here to help. I felt I had to do something.

"I have photographed these hills (around Machynlleth), I know these hills, so my knowledge of the area could help."

Bosnian Eddie Hrustanovic, 35, from Newtown, Powys, works as a planning officer for Powys council and is also a warrant officer with Newtown's RAF Air Cadets.

"I saw the details about April's disappearance on Facebook and followed developments on BBC News and its website. This morning working in Welshpool an email arrived from County Hall (the council headquarters) saying police are seeking volunteers to help with the search for April, so I answered it."

Mr Hrustanovic, a father of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, said he had been searching behind the town's leisure centre towards the hills on the outskirts of Machynlleth.

"I'm from Bosnia and I lived through the war there," he added. "I was an interpretor for UN and Nato forces during conflict so I know how precious life is. I felt I just had to come and help. It was my duty."

Retired electronics engineer Brian Clayton, 69, from Portishead near Bristol, said: "I heard the news at about 8.45am this morning , threw a few things in a bag and drove up here. My wife and I own a time-share in Pennal near here, we love the area and its people.

"We know the area well and I felt I might be able to help. I just wanted to do something rather than just watch it all unfolding on television."

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