THE parents of missing April Jones spoke today of their pain at realising they will never see their daughter alive again.
More than 10 weeks after the schoolgirl was snatched from the estate where she lived, Coral and Paul Jones gave an insight into the nightmare they continue to live.
Five-year-old April was last seen playing out on the Bryn-y-Gog estate at Machynlleth, mid Wales on October 1.
She had been allowed to play out late on her bike after getting a glowing school report.
Massive efforts to find her body somewhere in the rugged terrain around the close-knit mid Wales town where she lived continue unabated.
Superintendent Ian John vowed today that the search would continue on the same scale and with equal numbers into the new year.
The man heading the search efforts was speaking at a press conference in Machynlleth where he also announced the search would stop for two weeks during the festive break.
He also paid tribute to April's parents, saying: "The Jones family have shown great strength of character throughout their ordeal as they have come to terms with the fact that they will not see their daughter alive again.
"Showing great dignity and resilience they chose to maintain their privacy and chose to focus on their family and making sure they get through these tough times together."
The latest emotional words from April's parents were read out today by Mr John.
"It has been 10 weeks since April, our beautiful little girl, was taken from us and the pain of our tragic loss doesn't get any easier to bear," they said.
"With support, we are taking each day at a time. The police family liaison team are helping us to get on with everyday life as well as keeping us up to date with the search plans and the work being done to prepare for the court case.
"The messages and support from all over the world have continued and we remain grateful that we are in people's thoughts and prayers. The empathy shown towards us by not only local people but those from afar has shown us that people really do come together during difficult times.
"We are extremely grateful to Dyfed Powys Police for their continued efforts to find April. The dedication and determination shown by the search teams who have come from all over the UK has been truly amazing. We take comfort to think that they will be returning to their families to earn a well deserved rest over the Christmas and New Year period.
"We understand that Christmas will be a particularly difficult time without April being amongst us but as parents of Harley and Jazmin we will obviously acknowledge the festive season as best as we can. We sincerely hope that families around the world will enjoy a peaceful and loving Christmas.
"We would like to thank people for affording us privacy as a family, in particular the media. We realise that this is a big news story, but to us it is our life, and we are coming to terms with the fact that our baby girl has been taken from us."
Mr John underlined today the continued scale of the search efforts for April on the 73rd day since those efforts began.
"This is one of the largest search operations in the UK in police history," he said during the special briefing.
"Specialist teams from other agencies and organisations have been searching rivers and the sea; mines and quarries; and various other confined spaces on the hillsides of Machynlleth.
"Volunteers from a number of mountain rescue teams have walked for miles over the mountainsides, all working together looking for clues and evidence that may help us find April."
He added: "We will keep looking until we are satisfied that we have exhausted all lines of inquiry.
"We are not putting an end date on the operation, and we are not willing to speculate how much longer it will last, but we will say that we are committed to stay here until we can be sure that there are no more viable places to look for April's body."
He did vow, however, that the search would not be scaled back after the planned festive break.
He said numbers would go back to the same level as now with 16 search teams, of seven people, backed by a dozen CSI search dogs and their handlers, methodically looking for any sign of April's body.
"Numbers do sometimes go up and down but it will be scaled back up again afterwards," he said.
"We are working to a methodical plan which we have been doing from day one and that is under constant review."
He added that April's family was being kept up to date with every development.
"We are also in contact with them daily.
"As long as we still have viable plans our inquiries will continue. We still have areas that we need to cover.
"We have confined spaces and mine shafts and areas we have not looked over yet."
Mr John added: "The community were rocked by April's disappearance and they quickly rallied to support Coral and Paul, April's parents.
"In the early days, volunteers turned up en masse, ready and willing to do whatever they could to do their bit and help. People assisted the search team; they brought food, supplies like batteries for torches as well as warm socks and gloves.
"We were immensely grateful for their assistance, expert local knowledge and the support they showed to the operation. We appreciated their understanding when it came time for us to ask them to step aside from the search and to leave the work to the trained teams of officers."
He added: "The local neighbourhood police team have been instrumental in helping the community to come to terms with what happened.
"Officers have been out in the community speaking with people and reassuring them that even though the visible police presence in the town has dissipated, the search operation continues.
"All of this work will continue in the New Year, it is by no means over. The dedication and commitment from officers and staff involved in all aspects of this operation make me proud to say I work for Dyfed Powys Police.
"The key message from Dyfed Powys Police today is: while the operation will scale down over the Christmas period, work continues at a pace to make sure we are doing all that we can to find April and investigate her disappearance that night in Machynlleth."