April Jones search becomes murder probe as man arrested

Mark Bridger arrested on suspicion of murdering the five-year-old who went missing on Monday

LAST UPDATED AT 13:19 ON Fri 5 Oct 2012

THE INVESTIGATION into the abduction of five-year-old April Jones has become a murder inquiry, police announced today.

The little girl from Machynlleth in Mid Wales has been missing since Monday. Mark Bridger, 46, was arrested on suspicion of abduction earlier this week. But today police said he has been arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan, who has been leading the investigation, told a press conference this morning: "The arrest does not detract from our efforts to find April and we remain committed to finding her."

He thanked volunteers for their help in searching for the little girl but asked them to leave it to the professionals as the "dynamics of the search have now changed".

The Daily Telegraph claimed police have "given up hope" of finding April alive and say the search has moved away from a rescue mission to one of finding her body.

The newspaper said there were also reports last night that two women had told police they saw a man carrying a bin bag to a river the day after April disappeared. The man was allegedly seen scrambling down a bank near where April went missing.

Senior officers said establishing where Bridger was between 5pm on Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday, when he was arrested, was key to the search for April, who was abducted at 7pm on Monday.

Powys county council confirmed that Bridger had been at a parents' evening at the primary school in Machynlleth, where his own daughter and April are pupils. April's parents, Coral and Paul, were reportedly still at the school when April disappeared.

One witness said he saw Bridger driving through the Bryn-y-Gog estate, where April lives, at 6pm on Monday.

Bridger remains in custody at Aberystwyth Police Station where he continues to be questioned. The new murder arrest does not affect the time he can be held, points out The Guardian. Police still have until 5pm today to release him, charge him or go back before a court to ask for another 24 hours to question him. · 

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