Search for April Jones becomes murder inquiry

 

FOR FOUR days they had searched, but yesterday the people of Machynlleth, a small town in mid-Wales unknown to many before last Monday, began to accept that five-year-old April Jones is not coming home.

The decision by Welsh police to arrest local man Mark Bridger on suspicion of killing April came after they received the results of overnight forensic tests on material taken from his home on Thursday.

The arrest of Mr Bridger on suspicion of murder was “significant”, said Det Supt Reg Bevan, but it “does not detract from our efforts to find April and we remain committed to finding her”.

Locals have been searching relentlessly for April since she went missing outside her home in the usually peaceful and safe Bryn-y-Gog estate.

Shortly after the news broke that police were now treating her disappearance as a murder inquiry, Chief Insp Robyn Mason came to the leisure centre that has been the heart of the locals’ efforts to find her. Two hundred people were there when he arrived. The community-organised search, he said, had to end: “It was the most horrendous thing I’ve ever had to do, and I hope I never have to do it again in my police career,” he said later, close to tears.

Locals wept openly, some seeking comfort in the arms of neighbours.

Some learned of the development as they were interviewed live on Sky News. Presenter Kay Burley approached two locals, asking for their reaction to the police statement. When told that they had not heard it, she went on: “They don’t expect to find her alive. I’m sorry to have to tell you in circumstances like this. Would you like to say anything?”

Within minutes, social media was alive with fury. “Kay Burley: Insensitive bordering on cruel. Is breaking news so important that you have to forget your humanity?” Labour MP Tom Watson tweeted.

Locals have been asked by Bishop Andrew John of Bangor to come to a special prayer service in Machynlleth tomorrow: “This has been a very long and exhausting week for everyone in Machynlleth,” he said. “It is at times like this that people need their faith most and want to turn to God for help. We hope they will feel the love of God and draw some comfort and hope from it.”

Everywhere yesterday, pink ribbons decked cars, shops and homes, and everyone walking on the street, whether local, visitor or the media, was wearing one.

Mr Bridger appeared at Aberystwyth magistrate’s court shortly after 3.15pm yesterday, where police were given another 24 hours to question him. They must release or charge him by 5pm today.