Search widens as deadline to release April suspect nears


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The Independent Online

All 44 police forces in England and Wales are now helping in the hunt for missing five-year-old April Jones, it emerged last night, as officers and search teams continued their efforts through driving rain in Machynlleth.

Detectives, who have until 5pm today to question the man suspected of abducting her, have received more than 2,500 calls from the public.

The information was being processed last night by forces around the country, which offered help through the national Child Alert line.

As April's family launched a "pink ribbon" campaign to help sustain awareness of the search, her sister described her anguish at the prospect that someone might know something that could lead to her safe return but was not prepared to come forward. "I just want our beautiful princess home now," said Jasmine Jones, 16. "It's been too long. Knowing someone knows something but won't say it makes me feel even worse."

Superintendent Ian John, of Dyfed Powys Police, said the deteriorating weather would not stop the effort to find April, who has cerebral palsy and needs daily medication. "I just want to remind everybody that's why we're here tonight, in the pouring rain in Machynlleth, to focus on the search and do everything that we can to bring this operation to a conclusion," he said.

Mr John thanked volunteers who had come from all over Britain to contribute to the effort to find April. Four hundred volunteers have joined eight specialist police teams under the command of five national search experts. The scale of the hunt was described by senior officers as "unprecedented in modern policing history".

Police have until 5pm today to charge Mark Bridger, release him or seek another warrant of detention. Yesterday morning, detectives were granted a further 36 hours by magistrates to continue questioning the 46-year-old.

Det Supt Reg Bevan, leading the inquiry, repeated calls for anyone who had been in contact with Mr Bridger between April's disappearance on Monday evening and his arrest on Tuesday afternoon – either face-to-face, by text, phone or social media – to come forward. As well as questioning Mr Bridger, officers were pursuing other lines such as house-to-house inquiries and CCTV footage, he said.

But Mr Bridger's actions remained central to the investigation. Mr Bevan 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."

Locals showed their support for April's family and, by wearing pink ribbons, expressed their hope that she might still be found alive. A fund has been established to help the family.

Meanwhile, volunteers pre-empted calls by police to co-ordinate searches of local villages within a 15-mile radius of Machynlleth by setting off into open ground to look for the girl. Police teams continued to focus their efforts on a farm in Ceinws, three miles north of Machynlleth, where Mr Bridger had been staying after splitting up with his partner, who lived on the Bryn-y-Gog estate where April's family live.