Wales

April Jones abduction: Man, 46, held by police

  • 2 October 2012
  • From the section Wales

Police in mid Wales are about to give more details about the search for a missing five-year-old girl following the arrest of a 46-year-old man.

April Jones was with friends near her Machynlleth home when she "willingly" got into a van at 19:00 BST on Monday.

The arrested man, named locally as Mark Bridger, was in custody as the search for April continued on Tuesday night.

Dyfed-Powys Police called a news conference for 21:30 BST to give an update on the inquiry.

Coastguard teams from Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi, Borth and Harlech are searching the Dyfi estuary.

Police said the man in custody was arrested on the A487 main road out of Machynlleth, which has been closed in both directions as far as Cross Foxes, near Dolgellau, 12 miles away.

The coastguard also confirmed land-based coastguard rescue teams from Borth, Aberystwyth and Aberdyfi were helping in the search along the River Dyfi and RNLI inshore lifeboats from Borth and Aberdyfi were also called out.

Det Supt Reg Bevan hoped the arrested man would help lead them to April

Speaking at a news conference in Aberystwyth on Tuesday afternoon, Det Supt Bevan said: "We have arrested a 46-year-old man from the Machynlleth area who has been detained at Aberystwyth Police Station.

"We made the arrest just outside Machynlleth and we're hopeful that the individual will assist in locating April who is still missing."

He said that the man arrested had been sought by police and was stopped while he was walking along a road outside the town. His vehicle, similar to the one described by witnesses, has now been recovered.

"We knew he was in the area, we've been anxious to trace him and speak to him," he added.

Det Supt Bevan added: "We're still pursuing all lines of inquiry with the view that April is still alive and will continue to do so until we find her."

When asked if police were looking for anyone else, he said: "It's a very early stage. He is a local man and it's a small community. I wouldn't like to speculate further."

But he went on to say: "We have a number of leads. Some are higher priority than others.

"This man is significant, clearly, but I'm sure there are other people in the area who can assist and I would appeal to them to get in touch."

Supt Ian John added: "We are continuing with the searches and can I ask everyone who has already looked in their sheds, outbuildings to do so once more, we still have a missing five year old."

He said the search for April had involved mountain rescue teams, British Transport Police, police dogs and helicopters as well as people from the town and the surrounding area who had helped with the efforts.

During an earlier news conference on Tuesday, Det Supt Bevan said police had gleaned more information from children who had been playing with April shortly before she went missing near her home on the Bryn Y Gog estate.

He said the children had told police the vehicle involved looked like a grey or light coloured van and that April has appeared to get inside "willingly".

He said at the time they had a significant number of pieces of information and that officers were concentrating efforts in the immediate vicinity following specialist advice.

Police have praised the "tremendous response" from the community as hundreds of people have been gathering at the local leisure centre to help with the search.

Road blocks have been set up as officers and hundreds of local people continue conducting searches of the local area, woodland and isolated farmland.

Police helicopters, the fire service and police dog teams have been mobilised. Refuse collections in the area were suspended on Tuesday as council workers were re-deployed to help the search.

Bus companies have also been ferrying groups of people around the large, rural area to widen the search.

Police outside the Jones family home

Search volunteer Anwen Morris said locals had searched an area with a 30-mile radius using quad bikes and off-road vehicles.

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

"We live in hope," he said. "I want to appeal to people out there who may have seen something, even if they thought it's not of very much importance, to come forward and tell police."

Volunteers joining police in the search in fields

Powys County Council said it was providing support for pupils and staff at April's school - Ysgol Gynradd Machynlleth.

Brian Vaughn, whose daughter goes to school with April, described her as a "lovely little girl". He said: "Everybody just wants her back, really.

"Whatever we've got to do, we'll do it. We're just hoping for the best, that she's closer rather than further away."

Neighbour Rhydian Mason said: "It's completely heartbreaking. I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of April's parents and it's an awful feeling in the pit of the stomach."

St Peter's Church in the town has organised a vigil for people in the town where candles will be lit and prayers said for the missing schoolgirl.

According to Home Office figures there were 532 child abductions in England and Wales between 2011 and 2012.

About 500 children under 16 are abducted each year - but the majority of these are parental abductions, according to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).

Dyfed-Powys Police have asked anyone with information to contact a dedicated hotline on 0300 2000 333.

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