1. ITV Report

Search for April Jones: 'A real sense that we could really help'

Dyfed-Powys Police says there's no end date on the search for five-year-old April Photo: Family photograph / Dyfed-Powys Police

Jonathan Hill presents Wales Tonight. He spent a week in Machynlleth fronting our coverage of the search for April Jones.

Monday 1 October is a day I will remember for the rest of my career. I was preparing for the late news which we first noticed on Twitter that there were reports that a little girl had gone missing in Machynlleth. As we made check calls it soon became clear that April Jones was still missing and the police were taking the story very seriously. In cases like this they talk about the 'golden hour' when there is still a real chance of finding the child alive and with just an hour and a half to go before our next broadcast we were desperate to get information out there about her disappearance in case anyone might have seen her.

We were all hoping that Twitter might reveal that April had been found safe and well, but as the hours passed it was all too apparent that this was going to become a huge story. I left the newsroom in the early hours to get a few hours sleep before heading up to Machynlleth at first light. The early morning radio was full of details about the search for April which had gone on through what had been a cold and wet night. As we approached the outskirts of the town we were flagged down by local people and handed a flyer with the little girl's picture on it.

Minutes later we arrived at the leisure centre that would become the focus of the operation to find April. It was quite extraordinary to see all the people who had turned up with sticks and waterproofs ready to head out into the hills around the town. It is the most beautiful part of Wales but that morning the cloud and mist hung heavy in the skies. As parcels of food and drink arrived and search parties clutched soggy maps there was real hope that April would be found. Helicopters were landing on the playing fields and the world's media was arriving in the car park.

Hundreds of people volunteered to join the search on the first night and over the following days Credit: Rui Vieira / PA Wire / Press Association Images

As journalists we have a job to do and for the first few days there a real sense that we could really help in getting April's image on every screen in the land in the hope that someone might have seen something that could lead police to her. That mood was changed when police indicated that they didn't believe that April was still alive. That was a really difficult broadcast that night because the mood was changing from one of hope to one of despair. It is not a nice feeling to be the person that has to destroy the hopes of all the viewers who had followed the story praying for a happy ending. We cannot comprehend how April's family must be feeling at this time of year and we can only hope that in time they will find some kind of peace. As a father of a little girl who, like April, adores the colour pink, the week I spent in Machynlleth will stay with me for the rest of my career and beyond. Like so many people that week, I think I hugged my children just a little closer.

April's family have recently released a photograph of her at home last Christmas Credit: Family photograph

Tomorrow, our producer Dafydd Jones writes about his experiences covering the search for the missing five-year-old.

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