Have you seen April? Desperate search for girl, 5, ‘seen getting into a van’ after playing on her bike outside her home
- April Jones got into a grey or light-coloured van, witnesses reported
- Disappeared from Welsh town of Machynlleth at about 7pm on Monday
- Hundreds of local residents take to streets in hunt for missing child
- Police: ‘We are becoming increasingly concerned for her safety’
- Posters bearing the message ‘Kidnapped’ produced to raise awareness
- Cars entering and leaving the town stopped and searched
PUBLISHED: 00:12, 2 October 2012 | UPDATED: 10:03, 2 October 2012
Missing: April Jones, 5, who was abducted last night from the town of Machynlleth in Wales
A frantic search is underway after a five-year-old girl playing on her bicycle with a friend near her home was last night abducted by a stranger.
Police and hundreds of residents searched through the night for April Jones, who was taken into a van in the town of Machynlleth in Wales.
Officers were today comforting her distressed parents Coral, 40, and Paul, 43, who were said to be ‘besides themselves with worry’.
Detectives said they were becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ for the girl, who disappeared in the grey or light-coloured vehicle at around 7pm.
A large number of officers and specialist teams are investigating April’s disappearance.
An estimated 200 residents gathered outside the town’s leisure centre while others combed nearby woods and playing fields.
Dyfed Powys Police said that April was wearing a purple knee-length coat with grey fur around the hood, a white polo shirt and black trousers.
A spokesman said: ‘Her abduction took place around 7pm in the Bryn Y Gog estate in Machynlleth.
‘It was witnessed by another young child when April was seen getting into a grey or light-coloured van, or van-sized vehicle.
‘While the details of what happened are vague at the current time, it appears the suspect left the scene and drove off with April.
‘At the time of her disappearance, April was wearing a purple knee-length coat with grey fur around the hood, her school white polo top and black trousers.
‘Many police officers and specialist teams have worked through the night, with extensive searches taking place, and many lines of inquiry are being pursued.’
Disappeared: Police said that April was wearing a purple knee-length coat with grey fur around the hood (seen left), a white polo shirt and black trousers. She is pictured (right) with a man believed to be her father
Police family liaison officers are also helping the little girl’s family, the spokeswoman said.
Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan of Dyfed-Powys Police told Sky News that because the initial account of April’s abduction came from children, police were involved in a ‘delicate and lengthy process’ to get the best information.
He said: ‘Hopefully, later this morning I’ll have some more details around the vehicle, specific details, and we are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry around that vehicle, where it may or may not be at this moment in time.’
Mr Bevan asked anyone who was in the area around 7pm last night or who believes they have information to contact police on 0300 2000 333.
Earlier, Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Powell said: ‘We are obviously becoming increasing concerned for her (April’s) safety and are asking for any one with information to please contact us.’
Dog teams have been involved in the operation to find the five-year-old, and cars in and out of the small market town, which has a population of 2,000, were being stopped and searched, police said.
April’s disappearance has sparked concern in the local area, as well as further afield.
Hundreds of people from across the UK have already signed up to a dedicated Facebook page in a bid to raise awareness.
Those joining the group are able to download a missing poster, featuring three photographs of the youngster, before sharing it on their profile.
One mother wrote: ‘It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.’
A neighbour, Gwyn Briwnant-Jones, 55, said April, who has a 16-year-old sister and a ten-year-old brother, comes from a loving home.
Her mother Coral, 40, raised the alarm when her daughter failed to return home from riding on her bicycle with her friend nearby.
Mr Briwnant-Jones said: ‘Most of the town has been looking for the little girl.
‘April’s mother knew she was playing with another little girl and when she didn’t come home she went to the other girl’s house to look for her.
‘That’s when the girl said April had been taken in a van.’
‘They’re a lovely family,’ he said. ‘They haven’t had any problems that I know of.’
Businessman Shem ap Geraint, who joined the search, said: ‘Pretty much the whole town is out looking. Other local towns are joining in as well.
‘We are searching local woods. The local leisure centre is acting as a base.’
Chris Dudley, who works at the Skinners Arms pub, near the girl’s home, said the bar was deserted last night.
He said: ‘All the locals are looking for her in this area – the cemeteries, the golf field, playing field, everywhere you can think of.‘
There’s no one in [the pub] tonight, everybody is outside looking for her.’
Inspector Kevin Davies said ‘every angle’ of the investigation was being covered.
He told the BBC that police dog teams were involved in the operation and that cars in and out of the town were being stopped and searched by officers.
A family liaison officer is also keeping the ‘devastated’ relatives of missing April informed of any developments, Inspector Davies added.
Locals have put up posters of April around the town as part of their search efforts.
Restaurant owner Razul Islam said neighbours saw the youngster playing outside her doorstep before she vanished.
‘There are hundreds of people out looking for her,’ Mr Islam said.
‘It is such a small town and nearly everyone is out looking for her – I’m shocked that it has happened in a town like this.’
Petrol station owner Nerys Zjalic said she had reopened the garage to help with the search.
Ms Zjalic, who runs Reads Garage, told ITV Wales: ‘We’ll stay open all night if we have to.
‘We heard about the search through social networking sites and there was a lot of people going past our house.’
My friend called to ask if we would open so people can get petrol to help in the search. Locals are out in full force searching for her.’
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, she said that some people had returned home overnight, but were planning to reconvene their search this morning.
‘It just shows the community spirit of the town and how people get together in a crisis to do anything they can to help,’ she added.
Ms Zjalic, who knows the missing girl’s family, said people had been coming from far and wide to help with the search.
‘It’s unbelievable – you just don’t think that something like that would happen in a small town like Machynlleth.
‘Nothing will be the same again – this is a small little market town and you think children are quite safe but this shows us it’s not the case.’
She continued: ‘People just can’t believe such a thing has happened.
‘The whole town is devastated and in shock.’
Ms Zjalic said that volunteers had flocked to the town to take part, adding: ‘One lady came in and she had come from Caernarfon, which is North Wales, so I suppose you are looking at 80-odd miles.
‘She said “I saw it on Facebook and I couldn’t sleep, so I came down”.’
Machynlleth is situated in the Dyfi Valley and sits on the southern outskirts of Snowdonia National Park.
Search volunteer Anwen Morris said locals had searched an area with a 30-mile radius overnight using quad bikes and off-road vehicles.
‘The most important thing here is to get this little girl home,’ she told Sky News.
County councillor Michael Williams, who also joined in the search efforts, said: ‘People were co-ordinated by the police and as well as searching the town they went out into forested areas of the valley and wooded areas and out into hamlets and byroads.’