Heartbreak as police give up hope of finding April (5) alive
THE search for missing five-year-old April Jones turned into a grim trawl for her body last night, as police were given extra time to question the man being held on suspicion of her murder.
Hundreds of people who had formed volunteer search teams were sent home as dogs specially trained to locate dead bodies were brought in to continue the search in the mid-Wales town of Machynlleth.
The child, who needs daily medication for cerebral palsy, has not been seen since Monday evening when she willingly climbed into a car that pulled up on her estate while she played with friends.
The chief suspect, Mark Bridger (46), was driven to a court in Aberystwyth in a secure van yesterday, where a magistrate gave police permission to hold him until this afternoon before either charging or releasing him.
After the hearing, Mr Bridger was flanked by two officers as he was escorted back into the police station with a blue sheet over his head.
Further details emerged yesterday of the close links between April and the main suspect for her murder, who took her on a trip crabbing in August with two of his own children in the Land Rover Discovery that is at the centre of police inquiries.
Mr Bridger, a former leisure centre worker, was a regular visitor to the Bryn-y-Gog estate where April's family lived close to his former girlfriend, Elaine Dafydd. Their children often played together.
There was little sign yesterday of a scaling down of the search in the girl's hometown and in Ceinws about five miles away, where Mr Bridger had been living in a farmhouse.
A team of 12 police scoured a steep hillside close to the nearby River Dyfi, where two witnesses saw a man carrying a black bag at about 1pm on Tuesday.
Mr Bridger was arrested two-and-a-half hours later, walking by the river, wearing camouflaged clothing. His car was found in a repair shop in the town.
It also emerged yesterday that both Mr Bridger and April Jones's family attended the same parents' evening at their children's school on the evening she went missing.
Mr Bridger had reportedly parked his car on a one-way street and blocked in other parents. Witnesses have reported seeing Mr Bridger's car being driven erratically close to the estate where April went missing several hours later.
The missing girl's parents, Paul (43) and Coral (40), had received a glowing report about her progress at school and had therefore given her extra time to play outside as a reward, according to sources close to the family.
Gwenfair Glyn, the head teacher at Ysgol Gynradd Machynlleth, said everyone at the school had refused to give up hope.