Scores of mountain rescuers took part in the recent search for the missing five-old-girl April Jones in the mid-Wales town of Machynlleth.
Volunteers from 24 mountain rescue teams were joined by colleagues with search dogs in the hunt for the girl.
Teams from as far away as North Yorkshire joined rescuers in an extensive search for the girl without success. Superintendent Ian John of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “I would like to pay tribute to the mountain rescue teams who have worked themselves to a standstill in the search for April.
At the weekend the mountain rescue teams were stood down and police teams took over responsibility for what had become, in reality, a search for the little girl’s body.
Rob Johnson, a member of Search and Rescue Dogs Association Wales, was one of the handlers who took part in the operation.
He put into words his feelings from his days in an around the mid-Wales town:
“While the police search for missing April Jones continues in Machynlleth, our search dogs, handlers and search managers have now had to return to their normal day to day lives.
“I am sure I can speak for the whole team, because every single one of them has been operational in the search for April, when I say that not a day will have gone by without April, her family and friends and the people of Machynlleth being in our minds.
“The search for a missing child is always hard, especially as the clock ticks and time goes on.
“As volunteers, we hope against hope that we will be able to help bring a positive conclusion. The hours, days and weeks of training we do in our spare time are for precisely this reason: to reunite a missing person with their family, friends and community.
“As the days go by and April is still not found a feeling of sadness enters our hearts as we methodically go about our searching, the whole time being positive for the dogs, willing them on to fight through the brambles, push through the forest, wade the rivers and climb the piles of slate and shale to rule out another area of open countryside.
“The feeling of sadness, the overwhelming sense of being tired, the straggly dog with a coat full of thorns are all feelings and worries that are put behind us though when faced with the warmth, strength and generosity of the people of Machynlleth.
“Thank you to each and every one of you.”
“Whenever we returned to the leisure centre to brief the search control on our search, hot food and drink was pressed into our hands.
“A constant stream of volunteers rallied around, looking after everyone committed to finding April.
“Complete strangers gave me a hug, fussed our dogs and brought them treats and snacks. Pink ribbons fluttered from almost every house, car, shop and lamppost in a visible sign of support for April’s family.
“Now for us life goes on. We are back at work; the dogs return to their normal day-to-day existence until the next call comes in or until the next training session.
“For April’s family though, life is on hold as the search continues and our hearts go out to them.
“Thank you to the people of Machynlleth.”
More details of the search dogs’ work is on the Sarda Wales website.