Police lose hope of finding missing April Jones alive as Mark Bridger is arrested on suspicion of murder

Bridger arrested on suspicion of murder as deadline to charge him looms

The search for missing five-year-old April Jones turned into a grim trawl for her body last night, as police were given extra time to question the man being held on suspicion of her murder.

The search for missing five-year-old April Jones turned into a grim trawl for her body last night, as police were given extra time to question the man being held on suspicion of her murder.

UPDATE: Bridger charged with abduction and murder, 6 October 2012

Hundreds of people who formed volunteer search teams were sent home as dogs specially trained to locate dead bodies were brought in to continue the search in the mid-Wales town of Machynlleth. The child, who needs daily medication for cerebral palsy, has not been seen since Monday evening when she willingly climbed into a car that pulled up on her estate while she played with friends.

The chief suspect, Mark Bridger, 46, now being held on suspicion of murder, was driven to a court in Aberystwyth in a secure van yesterday where a magistrate gave permission for police to hold him until this afternoon before they charge or release him.

After the hearing, Mr Bridger was flanked by two officers as he was escorted back into the police station with a blue sheet over his head.

Further details emerged yesterday of the close links between April and the main suspect for her murder, who took her on a trip crabbing in August with two of his own children in the Land Rover Discovery that is at the centre of police inquiries.

Mr Bridger, a former leisure centre worker, was a regular visitor to the Bryn-y-Gog estate where April's family lived close to his former girlfriend, Elaine Dafydd, and their children often played together.

A relative said: "Nobody in the family thought anything of it at the time – the kids love going crabbing in the summer. But it means the police will definitely find forensic evidence of April in his Land Rover."

There was little sign yesterday of a scaling down of the search in the girl's hometown and in Ceinws about five miles away where Mr Bridger had been living in a farmhouse. A sonar vessel criss-crossed the river Dyfi, two miles from Machynlleth, as emergency services including the Coastguard, RNLI, RAF mountain rescue and 150 members of mountain rescue teams continued their efforts.

Meanwhile, a team of 12 police scoured a steep hillside close to the fast-flowing river.

Mr Bridger was arrested wearing camouflaged clothing. His car was found in a repair shop in the town.

Superintendent Ian John said last night: "Despite the developments of our investigation, our focus here remains on finding April and the search continues."

It also emerged yesterday that both Mr Bridger and April Jones' family attended the same parents' evening at their children's school on the evening she went missing.

April's parents, Paul 43, and Coral, 40, had received a glowing report about her progress at school and had given her extra time to play outside as a reward, according to sources close to the family. Child witnesses told police that she climbed willingly into the car at around 7pm on Monday.

A neighbour said he saw a car that "kept cruising up and down the road where the kids were playing" before seeing it park nearby. "The kids were still playing at that point," he told the Daily Mirror. "But suddenly they weren't there and I noticed the car drive briskly down the road towards the town centre."

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