One of the major crime stories from the UK at the moment, and a very big story in its own right, is the disappearance of April Jones. April, who is five years old, was snatched off the street from near her home in Machynlleth. Usually alluded to as a market town, with a population of a little over two thousand, it is barely more than a village. Places like this are generally considered to be free from crime, certainly the major crimes that plague most large urban areas. In a place where everybody knows everybody else, and where life proceeds at a somewhat more leisurely pace than the city, this is not surprising.
April went missing on Monday evening
. She was seen climbing into a van, but the big problem is that the witnesses were children of her own age, who can't be questioned by the police in the same straightforward manner as can adults.
An arrest was soon made, that of a local man identified as Mark Bridger
. He was held initially on suspicion of abducting April, but it has now been revealed that April suffers from cerebral palsy, and the police have since made it clear they believe April is now dead.
Having applied to the court for more time to detain and question Bridger, the time is now fast approaching when they have to decide either to charge him or release him. It would not be proper to comment further on the suspect at this stage, but what is truly amazing about it has been the public response.
Local people have volunteered in their droves to assist with searching for April, offers of help have come from far afield, and now hundreds of food parcels
have arrived at Machynlleth leisure centre as the police and search professionals continue to look for - in effect - April's body, although neither her parents nor anyone else has given up hope of finding her alive.
This sort of response is by no means uncommon. We see it when a young child or even a vulnerable adult goes missing. We see it during terrorist atrocities. We see it during major natural disasters when the world rushes in with search and rescue teams, doctors and nurses, and to provide such things as clean water, medicines, food, tents and blankets for people who have lost everything and are in danger of losing their lives. It is a pity that we can't have this sort of response all the time in a world where there is no war, no terrorism, and where five year old girls can play in the street without fear of being snatched and murdered by some pervert like Robert Black
, as was Caroline Hogg 29 years ago.