Day 4: Help needed to find missing cerebral palsy sufferer April Jones
Rescuers have called for volunteers with local knowledge of the Machynlleth area to help find April Jones, as day four of the search for the missing five-year-old gets under way.
Search co-ordinators are concentrating their efforts on 32 villages near Machynlleth, Powys, focusing initially on 15 communities.
They have appealed for the help of local people who know the area, farmland and out-buildings.
This is not, however, a blanket appeal for people to come to Machynlleth to help with the search, as it was on Tuesday. The appeal also comes from rescuers, not police.
Limited Deal. All day wedding photography only £545.00View details
All day wedding photography only £545.00
From Bridal preparations to first dance.
250+ Hi Res images on disc with full printing rights.
Professional photography at affordable prices.
Free no obligation consultations.
Offer subject to availability.
Book before 31st May 2013.
Available in Bath, Bristol and surrounding areas.
Contact: 01225 439257
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Dyfed Powys Police explained: "We have taken the names and numbers of a large number of people who have kindly offered their help and support during our searches for April.
"And people are welcome to come forward and register their availability and specialist skills and knowledge so we can coordinate and manage the intricate and detailed searches that we plan to undertake today.
"While we are extremely grateful to them for coming forward and offering this help, we do not at the moment need to call upon their assistance and we have made no appeal for any existing volunteers or fresh volunteers to come out to assist us today.
"As Supt Ian John outlined yesterday, we are able to draw on the skills and expertise of a number of specialists teams."
April was last seen getting into a vehicle at around 7pm on Monday. She had been playing with a friend on the estate where she lives, in Machynlleth.
It emerged last night that April suffers from cerebral palsy and needs medication.
Her family said the five-year-old requires daily medication for the condition, without which she would be in pain.
Last night police were given an extra 12 hours to question Mark Bridger, a local man arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of abduction.
This morning April's family have appealed for people to display pink ribbons on their persons and their vehicles to show solidarity with the search for April.
Her godmother Mair Raftree made an emotional appeal on BBC News. Visibly upset, she said: "If there is someone out there who has got any details please contact the hotline and get her home".
At a press conference last night police said Bridger has been questioned twice, and that officers are looking into his past to build up a profile.
Police are trying to establish Mr Bridger's movements between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon, and that of his vehicle.
Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan said: "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."
Turning to the conditions searchers are working in, Mr Bevan said: "The geography is very challenging and everyone is working in a hostile environment, by that I mean the terrain if difficult, waterlogged, working near to flooded rivers with the potential for mine shafts and unstable ground.
"There is a variety of building sand open area searches which require flexibility and systematic method to the operation."
He insisted detectives are not scaling back the search for April, which involves more than 100 mountain rescue experts. "The number of officers we have deployed will increase, particularly the use of specialist officers from around the UK," he said.
"This is a growing operation and in no way are we scaling back this search. We remain completely focused on finding April."
Earlier on Wednesday April's mother Coral Jones made a desperate plea for information about her daughter's whereabouts.
Speaking at a news conference, Ms Jones was in tears as she said: "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 five years old. Please, please help find her".
UPDATE 0945: Police have been given permission to extend the questioning of Mark Bridger over the disappearance of April Jones, Sky News reports.
UPDATE 1005: Between 300 and 400 local volunteers have attended a meeting in which they were told to use their own initiative when searching for April Jones, BBC News reports. The meeting has just ended.
Volunteers, who know the area well, were urged to use their own initiative, but told it is imperative they don't get in the way of the police operation.
They were given clear instructions on where to search, one volunteer told BBC News, and each group has a leader.
The volunteer also told the reporter it is believed there is still hope April will be found.
UPDATE 1040: Farmers are among the local volunteers assisting with the search for April today.
Two farmers told BBC News they know the area extremely well, having worked locally for many years. They maintain their knowledge of the area may be better than that of the police.
The farmers said they would be helping to search "thousands of acres" of woodland, forests and mountains.
UPDATE 1057: Mark Bridger has appeared or is about to appear in a closed session in a magistrates' court for police to request more time to question him, BBC News reports.
UPDATE 1110: Police have been granted an extra 36 hours to question Mark Bridger, after he appeared before magistrates this morning, Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan has confirmed.
Delivering a press conference this morning, Mr Bevan said they have until just before 5pm on Friday before they either charge, release or apply for a further warrant of detention.
"The investigative team will be further interviewing Mark Bridger today," he said.
"We will be continuing to piece together his movements during the relevant times and looking to overlay what we glean from his interviews, witness accounts and sightings."
He added: "While there is a huge visible presence of police officers and search teams, there is also a significant team of officers working around the clock behind the scenes, assisting in developing that picture so we can map out to the best of our ability his movements.
"This includes a vast amount of forensic analysis taking places which forms a crucial part of the investigation. However, forensics alone will not solve this.
"We need information from the public which may help us find April."
Mr Bevan again urged people to consider whether they had seen Mark Bridger between 6.30pm on Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday. Anyone who has had contact with him between these times - be it face-to-face, via text message, telephone or social media - should contact police, he added.
"We also need information regarding the movements of the blue Land Rover Discovery registration L503 MEP between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon," he said.
Superintendent Ian John then took lead of the press conference, urging people to search their gardens and outbuildings, and provide police with details of their knowledge of the area.
"We want people to come forward to provide the volunteer search coordinators with their details and what skills and local knowledge they possess," he said.
"We have developed a set of questions which we want the coordinators in Machynlleth Leisure Centre to complete and feed to us. This information will help us make a wider search more effective for us."
Supt John added: "This is undoubtedly a large and complex search operation of it’s kind in recent policing history."
The operation, Supt John said, consists of eight Specialist police search teams directed by five POLSA’s; six Police Dog Handlers; officers from Dyfed Powys Police Marine Unit; RAF Mountain Rescue Team, coordinating the Mountain Rescue response with Brecon Beacons & Dyfi Valley Mountain Rescue Teams, including 11 Search and Rescue Dogs; the Coastguard Search Team and RNLI.
He added: "The three key messages for me are: Volunteers are welcomed; the police must co-ordinate the search activity to ensure integrity of the search operation and under Police co-ordination we can use volunteers at the right time, in the right place and utilise appropriate skills.
"This will maximise opportunities and prevent people attending when there may not be readily available tasks."
UPDATE 1345: Police are searching the home and garden of Mark Bridger, Sky News reports.
"Teams searched the rented home and outhouses and forensic officers combed the garden in the hamlet of Ceinws by the Dyfi river in mid-Wales", the news organisation says.
UPDATE 1415: More than 1,000 volunteers have turned out since 10am today to try to help with the search effort, rescuers have told BBC News.
A member of the rescue team also said 400 of those volunteers will have been utilised by later this afternoon.
UPDATE 1455: Police searching for April Jones "have begun digging up paving stones at the home of Mark Bridger, as it emerged he was seen driving erratically through April’s estate an hour before she went missing", the Telegraph reports.
The newspaper says: "Officers lifted paving slabs around the cottage and searched the banks of a river tributary which runs a matter of yards from the cottage."
It also quotes a resident on the estate: “He was driving erratically through Bryn-y-Gog - he nearly hit my mate at 6pm. I heard other people say he was driving up and down the road.”
UPDATE 1605: Mark Bridger is not a former soldier, BBC News reports. He has been an "odd-job man", working as a welder and lifeguard, among other things.
Meanwhile an appeal fund has been set up for April's family. It will be managed by the local council in Machynlleth.
BBC News also reports mountain rescue teams insist volunteers are being of great help to them. "They're doing a fantastic job supporting us," they told reporters.
UPDATE 1738: Police have been "overwhelmed" and "heartened" by the level of support and the response from members of the public.
In a press conference tonight, Superintendent Ian John said the force had received more than 2,500 calls following its appeal. Supt John said police forces from across the UK are helping to process each of them.
He said the force had been "heartened" by the number of calls they had received. "It shows the public care," he said.
In addition, more than 400 local people have given details of where they live and their specialist knowledge of the area, he added.
Turning to April's family, he said: "I'm sure we are all feeling for them at this terrible time."
He added: "That's why we are here tonight in the pouring rain in Machynlleth".
The search will continue throughout the night, Supt John said.
Anyone with information is urged to call 101. Alternatively, Dyfed Powys Police have issued a number for people who might have details about April: 0300 2000 333.