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Police call off the search for missing April Jones

The search - one of the largest in UK history - was due to end this month

The desperate search for the missing schoolgirl April Jones has been officially called off with officers failing to locate the five-year-old despite one of the largest searches in UK history.

April was last seen almost seven months ago playing on her bicycle near her home in Machynlleth, Powys, last October. Her disappearance prompted a huge outpouring of support for her family with hundreds of people joining one of the largest hunts in British history.

But Dyfed-Powys Police yesterday announced the “exhaustive search operation” had drawn to a close after checks of specific areas of land were completed last Friday.

While officers had long since given up hope of finding the youngster alive, specialist teams continued the search in countryside around her home.

The focus of the early search was a 12-mile stretch of road close to a fast-flowing river near the family home. But within weeks, it had widened to an area of 60 square kilometres with 17 search teams combing the countryside.

Last week, her parents, Coral and Paul Jones, were told they may never get to see April again.

In a statement released after April went missing, her family said their lives had been “shattered when our beautiful little girl April, who was playing with friends, was taken from us”.

It said: “We are devastated and our lives have stopped.”

Less than a week after the girl was last seen alive, Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan confirmed he was leading a murder investigation.

Dyfed-Powys Police has said it will continue to look for April until “all viable lines of inquiry” were exhausted.

A spokesman said: “A reactive team of specialist officers are available to respond to any new information that is received.”

Detectives have charged Mark Bridger, 47, with child abduction, perverting the course of justice and murder. Speaking outside Caernarfon Crown Court, North Wales, where Bridger was charged last October, Karen Griffiths, mother to April’s half-sisters, said: “We are trying to focus all our energy on finding little April and staying strong for all the family members.”

Bridger, who denies the charges, is due to appear at Mold Crown Court next week.