April Jones 'abduction': Police search in Machynlleth

April Jones
Image caption April was last seen wearing this purple knee-length coat

Police are treating the disappearance of a five-year-old girl in Powys as a suspected abduction.

April Jones was playing with friends near her home in Machynlleth but was seen getting into a grey or light coloured van at 19:00 BST on Monday.

Around 200 people helped in a search of streets, farmland and woodland through the night.

April was last seen wearing a purple knee-length coat with a fur hood, white school polo top and black trousers.

The Ysgol Gynradd Machynlleth pupil had been playing on her bicycle with friends near her home on the Bryn-y-Gog estate.

Dyfed-Powys Police said all the witnesses to her suspected abduction were children.

Det Supt Reg Bevan said getting information from the children would take time.

"It's a delicate and difficult process interviewing young children who were the witnesses to this," he said.

"That's continuing - it commenced last night and it will continue this morning and hopefully I will have more information for you later."

A hotline number has been released for people to call with information - 0300 2000 333.

Det Supt Bevan added: "We're liaising with our colleagues, neighbouring forces, [getting] specialist advice.

"We've got specially trained family liaison officers supporting April's family."

He also praised the "tremendous response" from the community.

Local people gathered at Machynlleth Leisure Centre on Monday evening to help look for the girl, as news of her disappearance spread on social network sites.

Posters of April were also circulated and put up around the town.

Dog teams

Police also set up road blocks to check vehicles, while the street where April disappeared has been cordoned off.

Det Ch Supt Simon Powell of Dyfed-Powys Police said officers were "becoming increasingly concerned for her safety".

He said the force had launched an "intensive search and criminal investigation" into the abduction.

"April was last seen playing on a bicycle near her home address and was seen getting into what we believe was a light-coloured van which then drove off," he added.

Insp Kevin Davies said the fire service and police dog teams had been mobilised, and vehicle check-points set up.

"There is mention of a grey van, we're looking at that as one of the angles of inquiry," he said. "Nothing is being overlooked. It's an angle, it's an inquiry that we're pursuing along with other angles.

"We're searching the area. Everything we can possibly do is being done.

"The family are obviously distressed. We're trying to keep them informed, we've got an officer allocated to them just to keep them informed as to what's happening. Any information, we'll share with them."

Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith MP, told the Labour conference in Manchester that the thoughts and prayers of all delegates are with the missing girl and her family.

"We all pray she's back in her community and with her family as soon as humanly possible," he added.

Meanwhile, Powys County Council said it was providing support for pupils and staff at April's school. Both the primary school and adjacent secondary school are open with lessons continuing as usual.

The council said refuse and recycling collections in the town had been suspended for the day, with the workers involved volunteering to join in the police search.

Machynlleth, an historic market town in countryside in the Dyfi Valley, has a population of around 2,100.

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

Local people described the family as "very well liked" and said they had helped create a community garden on the town's Bryn-y-Gog estate, which has more than 100 homes.

Alun Hughes, a friend of the family, said: "We were out last night and at the moment we are waiting for the police to organise specialist searches of the town."

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."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMayor of Machynlleth Gareth Jones: "This has come as a devastating blow"

'Really worrying'

Mayor of Machenlleth Gareth Jones, who was among those at the leisure centre, said people wanted to help the search in any way they could.

"We're all shocked, and it's the uncertainty of it all as well of course which is really worrying," he said.

"Our thoughts go out to the family, the close family and friends of April.

"We're all here to help as you can see by the amount of people we've got here this evening.

"Anything we can do, we will do it."

Machynlleth town councillor Michael Williams said people were "stunned".

"I've lived here all my life and I've never heard of anything like this before," he said.

"The family must be devastated, and I hope to goodness the little girl is found without any huge delay.

Neighbour Rhydian Mason said: "Most of us I think have found out through social networking sites online like Facebook - that's where I first heard of it - and we all want to see what we can do to help.

"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. We're all out here hopefully to see if we can get a positive outcome to this story, and we'll do our best even if we're out all night."

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

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites