Man arrested by police searching for missing five-year-old April Jones was 'known to the family'

April was last seen by another child getting into the driver’s side of a grey van which then drove off  in the town of Machynlleth, Mid Wales at about 7pm last night.

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The Independent Online

A man arrested in connection with the abduction of April Jones was known to the five-year-old's family, it emerged tonight.

The 46-year-old man from the Machynlleth area was caught on foot but his empty car was quickly recovered, police said.

Forensic officers were already examining the vehicle tonight and described it as "a vehicle he had use of which is of interest to the inquiry."

Police are also looking at whether April's abduction is linked to another attempted abduction in the Aberystwyth area around one week ago.

It comes as police confirmed that they were also looking closely at the movements of known registered sex offenders living in the area.

It is also understood that the man being questioned is known to April's family but is not a relation.

That would explain why the five-year-old apparently got into a car with the person who abducted her of her own free will.

The investigation remains "fast-moving" and he said he may have a further update later.

Superintendent Ian John said: "We are continuing our search for April and that continues, as our priority is to find her and bring her home to her family.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has assisted us in this search."

A long stretch of the A487 from Machynlleth northwards has been closed in both directions as part of the investigation police said.

The Traffic Wales website said the area around the Dyfi bridge would be closed "until further notice".

In interviews after the press conference, Mr Bevan said that the arrested man lived locally and had a vehicle similar to the one described by those who witnessed April's abduction.

"We knew he was in the area, we've been anxious to trace him and speak to him," he said.

The man was arrested a couple of miles outside Machynlleth, while he was on foot, and his vehicle has now been recovered.

Mr Bevan said: "He was on foot, he was walking on the side of the road and he was detained by officers and taken into custody.

"Officers have now recovered his vehicle, that was found in the Machynlleth area."

Earlier today, Mr Bevan called the abduction of a five-year-old girl “every parent’s worst nightmare”, and vowed to obtain vital information from children who witnessed April Jones getting into a van yesterday evening.

Mr Bevan told a media conference that obtaining accurate information from the young children who were playing with April when she disappeared, calling it a “delicate and time consuming task”.

April was last seen by another child getting into the driver’s side of a grey van which then drove off  in the town of Machynlleth, Mid Wales at about 7pm last night.

Mr Bevan told reporters: “Clearly, it would be every family's worst nightmare to suffer a child going missing in these circumstances.”

 “I am mindful that we are still in the process of speaking to these children…That is delicate and time-consuming. We are trying to extract exactly what they have seen and we are very anxious to provide the most accurate information we can without misleading anyone in any way,” he added.

The only description of the van so far was that it was grey, small at the front and large at the back, Mr Bevan said.

 “That could be interpreted as something small to a Ford Connect van, something like a Land Rover, and also that April got into the driver's side…That may well be that she got into the driver's seat, or it could mean that it is a left-hand drive vehicle”, he added.

Mr Bevan said the force would be combing through CCTV, both municipal and private, to find clues about the abduction of the five-year-old and repeated earlier pleas for any information, no matter how small.

Asked if there were any signs that there was a struggle, he said: “It's very difficult to give an exact account of what happened. There's nothing to suggest at this stage that there was a struggle when she got into the car…The indications are that she got into the vehicle willingly.”

Asked what the next step in the investigation would be, Mr Bevan said: “Obviously we have got to re-interview the child witnesses, we have got a number of people who live in the area, the traditional house to house inquiries.

“We have got a number of cameras that cover road networks so we are pursuing all the obvious lines of inquiry.” He added that staff were already recovering CCTV.

Mr Bevan said police were alerted last night, and it was “pretty soon after that” that the incident was being treated as an abduction.

He said April was with friends yesterday evening, “some of whom left earlier and there's certainly one individual that was with her when the abduction took place”.

 “Obviously if somebody has any footage that they feel may be of assistance, if it matches the description of the vehicle I have given, if it is of any movements in or around that time, 7pm last night, then we would be anxious for people to come forward.”

He added: “We have had a significant number of pieces of information, members of the public approaching us, as you are well aware, we have got media, Twitter, there is a Twitter account.

Volunteers, who had been congregating at the local leisure centre since this morning, are now helping with a mass police-organised search for April.

Each group, consisting of 20 people and led by an expert, has been given an assigned area to scour.

Police hope this organised and methodical approach will be much more effective - and hopefully successful - in tracing the youngster.

Reports said the advice given to those taking part was not to pick up any piece of child's clothing they discovered, in case such an item may yield key forensic clues.

Asked again how her family are coping, Mr Bevan said: “The family, as you would imagine, it must be their worst nightmare.

”As you would expect it is a very, very difficult time for them.

“But do we have specialist advisers with them and we will provide them with all the support that we can.”

Mr Bevan said police were keeping an “open mind” in relation to the question of whether April had been taken by a stranger of someone she knew.

“We are keeping an open mind, we are pursuing all lines of inquiry,” he said.

“Clearly April has got into the vehicle, there is nothing to suggest otherwise, so we are mindful of the circumstances that led up to that.

”I am unable to give too much information because it is early days in the inquiry and we are anxious that the information that I am able to give is something that we can confirm.“