Two weeks ago a five year girl named April Jones was abducted from close to her home on the Bryn-y-Gog Estate in Machynlleth, while she was playing with her friends. The Police have charged a local man with her abduction, murder and perverting the course of justice. But the search for April goes on. Its an awful tragedy. I really do not know how April's family can cope with such an evil act being struck against them. Everyone still hopes she will be found. But its the response to this tragedy that this post is about, rather than the tragedy itself.
As soon as news of the abduction went live on twitter and Facebook, the people of Machynlleth left their homes in their hundreds to search for April. They carried on searching, through the night and next day, setting aside everything else they had planned to do. They searched for days- and would still be searching now if the Police asked them to. I went to Mach myself next day, and the days after that. I wanted the people of Mach to know that all of Montgneryshire was thinking of them. I have never before seen a community response remotely like it. I never expect to anything like it again.
The Dyfed Powys Police have been astoundingly good. They have searched and organised by day and night. They have managed tragedy with great sensitivity and firmness. They have through Police Officers, Ian Johns, Reg Bevan and Steve Hughson communicated with the people and the media in an adult and sensitive way. They have brought in specialist reinforcements from across Britain to supplement any weaknesses that a small force inevitably has. They have linked with Mountain Rescue Services, who have also been wonderful and determined and other volunteers. Chief Constable Jackie Roberts can be very proud of her force.
And its not just the searchers. Its the back-up - the supplies to keep the searchers going. Supplies were coming into the Leisure Centre in loads. There were hot drinks and rolls for everyone. Yesterday, there were still enough biscuits and crisps to feed a Millennium Stadium crowd in the Plas. Early on a message went out on Facebook to ask if anyone had a fridge to keep milk cool. Within two hours, 11 fridges arrived. A message went out that plastic cups were needed. Almost immediately a van turned up with 2,500. It was all quite incredible. The Bishop of Bangor was there supporting the local Church, which became a centre for prayers for April. And much else I've not mentioned.
And a word for the media as well. We all know how ruthless and insensitive the national media can be - and it was the biggest media scrum I've seen, including College Green. I did lots of interviews as did the Mayor, Gareth Jones and County Cllr Michael Williams, both of whom were much affected by the tragedy. Every interview was sensitive and entirely proper. I believe the media, including hard-nosed hacks were genuinely taken aback by the public response. They had a story to tell, but they wanted to do it with respect, and mostly they did.
I hope I'm called by Mr Speaker on Wed at PMQs so that I can ask The Prime Minister to join me in a tribute to all of these people. I've never seen anything like it, and through the tragedy I have felt humbled by the way the community of Machynlleth, the Police, the Church and volunteers of all sorts have come together in such a positive way. Nothing will ever compensate April's family for what has happened, but I think they will always be able to remember that the people of their town did everything in their power to help.