April Jones: Church service for missing girl

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Media captionAhead of the service around 600 people took part in a silent procession to the packed church

A pink candle was lit for missing five-year-old April Jones at a special church service attended by around 1,000 people at her home town of Machynlleth, Powys.

Beforehand, hundreds joined a procession to St Peter's Church. The bells rang out as they approached.

Many stood outside the packed church. April's parents did not attend.

Mark Bridger has been charged with murder, child abduction and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Bridger is due before magistrates in Aberystwyth on Monday.

The Reverend Kathleen Rogers opened the service by saying that the community and searchers could not bring "sweet and innocent April home as we had hoped".

She told the congregation that while the parents of April were not at the service, "we hold them close in our hearts".

Image caption April Jones was last seen on Monday despite hundreds of people searching for her

Many people at the service dressed in pink or wore pink ribbons - the colour said to be April's favourite.

The service was conducted in both Welsh and English.

During the service, Bishop of Bangor the Rt Rev Andrew John appealed directly to April's family saying "we will be here for you" and "our prayers will continue and never cease".

He thanked the school for the care they had shown April's fellow pupils and the "extraordinary" efforts of the mountain rescue teams and the emergency services.

"We've seen their exhausted faces at the end of a long day of searching, but also seen your resolve," he said.

He also thanked the police for their "professional dedication continuing still today. I'm glad they have been here for us."

Ahead lies a journey that the whole community has to go on together to "repair the bruises and wounds" he said.

"We need each other and there will be many tears along the journey."

Image caption Orders of service were pink - April's favourite colour

"We want her home for her family and for them to be enveloped in our love," he added.

The Rev Rogers, holding back her own emotions, introduced the final hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful before the congregation were invited to contribute to April's Fund which has been set up by the town council.

As the service ended, there was a small ripple of applause from the people outside the church.

Speaking after the service, Bishop John said: "Machynlleth has given the world a human face to that word compassion and I think that is an important ingredient."

'Methodical search'

Police, who continue to search for the missing girl, say they have been "overwhelmed" by the response of the local community and other volunteers.

Hundreds have taken part in the search for the girl in the rugged countryside around the town.

Image caption Hundreds listened to the service via speakers outside

On Saturday, 10 specialist search teams carried out a systematic and methodical search in and around the town.

But on Sunday, Dyfed-Powys Police Supt Ian John said that it was likely that the mountain rescue searches would be scaled down within the next day or so with the focus becoming more police led.

Until then "the search continues," he said.

Efforts will be concentrated on the river, mountains and forest surrounding Machynlleth.

He said "the mountain rescuers will scale back" but added: "We will have almost double the amount (of police searchers) - 18 teams. That's over 100 officers.

"Our efforts are completely focused on this operation and bringing it to a conclusion."

Mark Bridger, 46, was arrested the day after April went missing from near her home in Machynlleth.

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