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Lizzy Davies and Paul Owen, Thursday 4th October 2012 00:59
We're closing this blog now but rolling coverage will continue on Friday morning.
Detectives have been given an extra 12 hours to question Mark Bridger about the disappearance of April Jones, a Dyfed Powys police spokesman said.
There have been hundreds more calls to the police since April's mother made her emotional appeal earlier today, Sky News reports. There has also been a call to local farmers to check outhouses and their land.
Poor weather conditions, including torrential rain, continue to make the search difficult.
My colleague Steven Morris has emailed to say that April's family have confirmed that she has celebral palsy but declined to comment further. However, it is bound to add to the family's concerns.
Mark Bridger has two young daughters who live on the Machynlleth's Bryn-y-Gog estate, where April was snatched from, and played out with the missing girl, according to local residents.
Bridger's daughters live less than 200 yards from April's home, and two of his former partners who both live on the estate, PA reports.
April is known to have played out on her bicycle with the two girls who are believed to be aged seven and 10. Both girls have a step-sister who is the same age as April who also regularly played with her.
Railway worker Glen Lewis, 50, said:
Mark Bridger could have gone to the house at any time to visit his daughters. I've seen his Land Rover there.
The girls, including April, all play out on the green together and go around on the bikes. I've seen them here quite often. That is the reason he came around here, because he has children living here.
Mark Bridger's son joined in the search for missing schoolgirl April Jones before his father was arrested by police, PA reports. Scott Williams said he had been estranged from his 46-year-old father for most of his life and only met him a couple of months before April disappeared.
In a brief interview with Sky News, the teenager said:
I have searched (for April) since she has gone missing.
How has this affected my family? It's nothing to do with us really. He (my dad) has never been in my life. I have only met him on a couple of occasions like down the local pub - he's been there a couple of times that I've been there. But it was a shock when we heard it on the news that he'd been arrested.
Asked what he thought the likelihood was of finding April alive, John said:
Our efforts are completely focused on doing that and we will continue to do that. I don't want to speculate and put any kind of time limit on that.
Bevan said of Bridger:
He has been interviewed twice. Clearly, our focus in those interviews, as it is in this whole inquiry, is to find April. That is primarily what we've been discussing with him.
What I don't want to do is compromise the investigation or any chance of finding April, so unfortunately I can't divulge exactly what he's told us so far.
Here are some quotes from the police press conference, courtesy of the Press Association.
Det Supt Reg Bevan said this of Mark Bridger and his blue Land Rover:
While these are clearly a significant line of inquiry, I must emphasise that there are many other leads that we are actively pursuing in an effort to find April.
Supt Ian John said the search for April was "continuing to grow and grow at quite a pace".
With that the press conference is over.
John says a great deal of the search is around the Machynlleth area.
Asked what the chances are of finding April alive, John says the police are totally focused on doing that.
Bevan says police are clearly looking into Bridger's past, and that is part of the profile they are building up on him.
Bridger has been interviewed twice, Bevan says. The focus of the interviews has been to find April, he says. The police have been sticking to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, he says.
He is asked if Bridger has given the police any information that has helped with the search. Bevan says he is not in a position to answer that. He does not want to threaten the chance of finding April in any way.
There are some rural properties, some farmhouses, that are part of the 20 "scenes" he mentioned earlier, Bevan says.
The number of officers is going to rise over the next 12-24 hours, John says.
This is a growing operation and in no way are we scaling back our search. And we remain completely focused and committed to finding April.
The terrain the police are searching is a "hostile environment" - wet ground, a flooded river.
They are searching houses, outbuildings, riverbanks - "it is a wide and varied environment our officers are searching in," John says.
John says Dyfed Powys police are not alone and have received unprecedented support from the rest of the UK. This is a national response, he says.
He thanks neighbouring Welsh and English forces for their "invaluable" assistance. He thanks the coastguard too.
Supt Ian John says there are over 100 mountain rescue volunteers. Their team leaders are used to working with the police and the coordination going on is first class.
There are 20 dog handlers and the RNLI have provided two vehicles to search the river. They also have a team of kayakers and the Dyfed Powys marine unit.
Bevan says Mark Bridger and his car are only one line of inquiry.
The police are working through all the information given by the public to prioritise inquiries.
They have over 20 "scenes" (areas) to focus on and have searched several in the Machynlleth area.
Det Supt Reg Bevan says he is going to give an update on the investigation so far.
The police press conference about April Jones is just getting under way in Aberystwyth.
The police press conference is due to start in about 10 minutes. I'll live blog it here.
A police officer in Machynlleth has just been telling Sky News that 150-200 local people are searching the local area, areas they know well, but police do not want any more volunteers.
Sky is also reporting the police will hold a news conference on the search for April in Aberystwyth at 5.30pm.
Sky News is reporting that the police are searching a vacant farmhouse two miles from the River Dyfi. We cannot confirm this.
This is Paul Owen taking over from Lizzy. My colleague Paddy Allen has updated his interactive map to show the area of the River Dyfi currently being searched.
The search seems to be concentrating on the River Dyfi, reports Steve Morris in mid-Wales.
More police in inflatable boats are going out and searching. It's a beautiful river – opens out into a wide estuary flanked by the holiday village of Aberdyfi and Borth on the other, well known for its wonderful dunes.
Mark Bridger, the 46-year-old man being questioned by detectives, has lived in Machynlleth for more than 25 years, writes Sandra Laville in this new report. She adds:
Born in Sutton, south London, Bridger has lived in several properties in Machynlleth. The Ministry of Defence is checking reports that Bridger is a former soldier. Locals said he worked as a lifeguard at Machynlleth leisure centre, where hundreds of volunteers gathered on Monday night to hunt for missing April.
Born in November 1965, Bridger moved to Machynlleth in the 1980s, and married in 1990.
He is the father of at least three children; one with his ex-wife – a boy who is now 20 – and another boy and a girl, now aged 12 and 10, with a girlfriend with whom Bridger lived in Machynlleth from the late 1990s after his marriage collapsed.
Bridger has two adult siblings who both live in the south-east of England. He recently lived with another girlfriend and moved between addresses in Machynlleth with her.
The BBC have some detail on the Coastguard's role in the ongoing search along with police and mountain rescue teams. It reports:
Coastguard sector manager Derek Roberts said 39 people from the service, split into four teams, were searching a three-mile stretch of the River Dyfi between Cemmaes Bridge and Dyfi Bridge.
Mr Roberts said seven coastguard teams from around mid and north Wales were taking part, including Aberdyfi, Anglesey and Aberystwyth, as well as RNLI inshore lifeboats.
The police are heading this investigation and we are guided by what they want us to search. We've been told to search this particular area.
It's been pointed out that the Landrover Discovery seized is neither grey nor in any way "light-coloured", as witnesses described the vehicle they saw April getting into, but dark blue, with a distinctive white and grey stripe down the side.
However, it's worth remembering that the witnesses are all young children, and are recalling a vehicle seen in the light of dusk.
The Dyfed Powys police have released a new poster appealing for information concerning April, as tweeted by my colleague Steve Morris.
The website for the South Wales Echo, www.walesonline.co.uk, has tweeted this new poster showing a variety of pictures of April, in order to keep the hunt for the missing girl in the public eye. The sheer volume of tweets with the hashtag #findapril is astonishing
The Guardian's interactive team have produced a new map showing key points in and around Machynlleth, including where suspect Mark Bridger was arrested yesterday.
My colleague Steve Morris, who was at that very emotional press conference in Aberystwyth just now, has filed an initial report of Coral Jones's heart-wrenching appeal.
He says the 40-year-old tried desperately to hold back her sobs while reading the short statement, her voice breaking as she said:
Please, please, help find her.
Jones then collapsed into sobs and buried her head in her hands, writes Steve. She was flanked by the officer leading the inquiry, Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan, and April's grandfather Dai Smith.
Our crime correspondent Sandra Laville has just told me she understands the Dyfed Powys police sought legal advice before taking the unusual step of confirming Mark Bridger's name to the media.
During the press conference Reg Bevan said that over 50 volunteers from the Machynlleth area were still working under the leadership of mountain rescue teams.
Coral Jones, April's mother, and Dai Smith, April's grandfather, are appearing before the press to give a statement.
Coral Jones has broken down in tears after reading a brief statement in which she pleaded for the safe return of April.
It's been 36 hours since April was taken from us. There must be someone out there who knows where she is and can help the police find her. We are desperate for any news. April is only 5 years old. Please, please, help find her.
The police were very clear this morning that they wanted the search to be carried out by the experts from now on, leaving many of the hundreds of local volunteers frustrated.
However this local woman has just written on Twitter that volunteers have been given the green light to join in once more.
This remains unconfirmed.
I'd be interested in hearing from any other volunteers if they have heard this too?
My colleague Sandra Laville has pointed out that the police are likely to have taken the unusual step of naming Bridger not only to dampen down speculation but also- more importantly- to elucidate any sightings of him or his car.
Their priority, of course, is to locate April alive- the aim of any child rescue alert.
There is some debate going on surrounding Dyfed Powys police's decision to confirm the identity of the man being questioned over the disappearance of April.
Mark Bridger's name had been widely reported by the media, but until earlier this morning police had refused to confirm it.
Now Christopher Jeffries, the retired teacher wrongly arrested over the killing of Joanna Yeates, has said all suspects' identities should be kept private until they are charged.
In comments made after a meeting with Labour leader Ed Miliband as part of the Hacked Off campaign for press reform, Jeffries said:
It should be standard practice that until somebody has been charged with an offence they have their personal details kept private.
Jefferies was awarded "substantial" undisclosed libel damages from eight newspapers last year after a series of allegations were made against him over the Bristol murder.
The press conference at which April's parents, Coral and Paul, are expected to appear has been moved to 12.30pm, according to reports.
April Jones is "a happy little thing, always out and about with her friends", according to one Machynlleth woman.
The woman, who asked not to be named, told the Press Association:
There was this feeling of sadness at the school this morning. We are just waiting for news. Everyone has done their bit to help.
All our children play in the same area where this little girl was playing. We have never worried about their safety before.
She [April] is just like any other five-year-old. Just a happy little thing, always out and about with her friends. We are just hoping to hear something positive.
April's disappearance continues to dominate life in the small market town.
No sooner is one press conference over than another one is announced. Next one expected at midday, reports Steve Morris.
Here's Reg Bevan's plea to the public for information:
Did you see that vehicle between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon? If you did, please don't assume that someone else has already contacted us. Please, even if you have the smallest of information, it could be crucial to this investigation.
Bevan said police were pursuing "a number of lines of inquiry", one of which was Bridger. He said:
We are in the process of piecing together his movements and that of the vehicle from around 5pm on Monday evening through to 3.30pm Tuesday afternoon when Mark Bridger was arrested.
He was arrested on the A487 just north of the Dyfi Bridge, walking in the direction of Machynlleth, and he was wearing a camouflage green jacket, black waterproof overtrousers and camouflage trousers beneath those.
The Land Rover Discovery was recovered from a repair garage in the Old Station Road area of Machynlleth on Tuesday afternoon.
Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan urged members of the public to come forward if they had seen either Bridger or his vehicle in that crucial period between 5pm on Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday.
If you have the smallest information it could be crucial to this investigation.
The car was recovered from a garage in Machynlleth on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
The police are appealing for anyone who may have seen Bridger's Landrover Discovery between 5pm on Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday.
Pictures of Bridger and his vehicle are being held up by police at the press conference. The number plate of the vehicle is L503 MEP.
Police have confirmed suspect in custody is Mark Leonard Bridger.
A hovercraft may be used in the search along the River Dovey, according to photographer Matthew Horwood.
Sky News are reporting that police have "new material" for the update due shortly. Images will be released of the vehicle and the man in custody, PA say.
We're hearing there will now be another police press conference at 10am. This was not expected, so let's see if there has been a development.
From what we know so far – and the police said earlier today they could not release all the information they had – we appear to be waiting on several areas of the investigation to yield a major development:
A reminder that, although we have comments off on this blog, you can contact me via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or on Twitter @lizzy_davies.
Guardian photographer Sean Smith has been out and about since before first light looking for evidence of the police search.
He reports that there is little obvious activity at the moment around Machynlleth, certainly nobody on the Dovey river banks, which has been a focus for the hunt.
Meanwhile Steve Morris has returned to Machynlleth.
A further update will be given in a press conference at 1pm this afternoon at the Welsh Assembly Government buildings in Aberystwyth, reports Steve Morris.
A reminder of the number to call if you have any information at all about April's disappearance: 0300 2000 333.
Dyfed Powys police are updating their Twitter account regularly. This message was just posted:
My colleague Steve Morris has filed this report of the press conference just held by police in Aberystwyth.
Extra officers and mountain rescue teams are being drafted in to search for the missing five-year-old April Jones, police said.
As detectives continued to question a 46-year-old suspect, police said they would press ahead with a “methodical and systematic” search of the area around the town of Machynlleth in mid Wales.
Superintendent Ian John, the local police commander, said he hoped as the day went on, more information would come from the suspect, a local man called Mark Bridger who is known to April's family.
I'm afraid to say I don't have any news on April's whereabouts but we continue to pursue the search areas. As today goes on and further interviews with the person in custody take place we anticipate intelligence coming out of those interviews which are going to drive where the police search operation will go.
The superintendent said Machynlleth and the surrounding areas continued to be the main focus for the search.
John said the police had been “overwhelmed” by members of the public volunteering to help search. But he said the conditions were “challenging” and the River Dovey, which runs through Machynlleth, was in flood. He said he was worried that people might put their own safety at risk and asked them for the moment to leave the hunt to the police and mountain rescue teams today.
John said more than 40 “trained and skilled” officers, along with mountain rescue teams, had worked overnight. More officers from neighbouring forces were joining today. He added:
We are doing everything we can to find April and bring her back to her family.
Another Welsh front page given over to April.
A vigil service was held and candles were lit at St Peter's Church in Penrallt Street, Machynllech, last night for locals to pray for April's safe return.
Other churches in the Diocese of Bangor – including Bangor Cathedral – have also set up prayer stations and opened books for people to express their thoughts.
Priest-in-Charge, Kathleen Rogers, who helped out in the search for April last night and has spent the day offering pastoral support at her school and at the leisure centre, told the Western Mail:
As a community we are facing an awful time and are in a very bad place. We need time to collect our thoughts and to place April, her family and ourselves in God’s hands.
I hope this very simple service tonight will be a time of prayer and solace. Everyone is welcome to come when they can.
The Western Mail's front page today speaks volumes about the way April's disappearance has affected Wales.
John said further interviews would be carried out with the man in custody today, and that information from those would drive the search.
Superintendent Ian John of Dyfed Powys Police reiterated that the search needed to be methodical, and asked volunteers not to turn out today. The river Dyfi was in flood, he said.
A number of members of the public had already turned up to help this morning.
Police say that more than 40 "trained and skilled" officers from the Dyfed Powys and South Wales police, including dog handlers, have been working overnight to find April. They have carried out "methodical and systematic seaches" in a number of locations.
But they says they have no news about April's whereabouts.
They at pains to say that, although police are grateful for the support they have received from the public, they are "extremely concerned" about volunteers going into the "challenging" conditions presented by the rural environment.
The hunt for April Jones, the five-year-old girl from mid-Wales who is feared to have been abducted from the street on Monday evening, has continued overnight as police and emergency services comb the area around her home town of Machynlleth.
As police continued to question a 46-year-old man named locally as Mark Bridger, her family last night issued an emotional plea for her safe return. In a statement read out at a press conference by police officers, they said:
Please, please, if you have our little girl, let her come home to us.
You can read the Guardian's main news story here, and Steve Morris's moving description of a town in shock here. Sandra Laville, meanwhile, reports that April's disappearance triggered the first nationwide child rescue alert ever in the UK.
Police have called another press conference due to begin shortly. We'll be keeping this blog updated with all the developments throughout the day.