MARK Bridger, the man being held on suspicion of kidnapping April Jones, gave the five-year-old a spin in his Land Rover two days before she was abducted, it has been claimed.
April was a regular playmate of two of Mr Bridger's children, Sophie, nine, and Connor, 13, who had been with her just hours before she was taken from near her home in Machynlleth, north Wales.
Mr Bridger, 46, had split from their mother Elaine, but often returned to the Brynygog estate in Machynlleth to visit them and was a friend of the Jones family.
Neighbour Amy Fenner, 21, said: "It's not the first time they have been in his vehicle. They had got into the van two days before the abduction."
The father-of-six, who has an ex-wife and three former partners living in Machynlleth, fathering six children, is being interviewed by police following his arrest on suspicion of April's abduction yesterday afternoon.
His former partner Elaine Dafydd, who lives close to April's home, has another daughter, Erin, aged four, by her new partner. Erin was with April when Mr Bridger offered them a ride in his Land Rover last week.
Miss Fenner said: "April was playing with her friends Erin, Milly, Sophie and Connor and it has come out that they have been in the van before.
"They drove them down the road from the estate and chatted with them. I don't know if it was just the three little girls who rode in the van or some of their other friends as well."
April's parents Coral, 40, and Paul, 43, are due to make a live television appeal later today for information on their daughter's whereabouts.
Earlier, Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan, from Dyfed Powys Police, released a picture of Mr Bridger and appealed for anyone who had seen him between 5pm on Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday to come forward.
He also appealed for sightings of Mr Bridger's metallic blue Land Rover Discovery, registration number L503 MEP, which was seized in a repair garage in Machynlleth.
April was last seen getting into a Land Rover-type vehicle at around 7pm on Monday.