The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details campaign@findmadeleine.com    

April Jones*

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April Jones in the coat she was wearing when she disappeared
April Jones in the coat she was wearing when she disappeared

At around 7pm, April is playing with friends in the mid-Wales town of Machynlleth when she goes missing. According to witnesses she is taken away in a van or a four-wheel drive vehicle and there are no apparent signs of a struggle.

The following day the McCanns release a statement, through their spokesperson, Clarence Mitchell, in which they send their 'thoughts and prayers' to all involved. It is reported only by ITV News (Central Region) - in a brief 2 paragraph report - and Wales Online website.

Ex-lifeguard Mark Bridger, 46, is later charged with April's abduction and murder, although her body has not yet been found.

An aerial view of the area from which April was abducted

An aerial view of April's home (top) and the area from which she was abducted (below)
An aerial view of April's home (top) and the area from which she was abducted (below)

April Jones: Timeline, 06 October 2012
April Jones: Timeline Evening Standard

06 October 2012

Here is a timeline of key events since five-year-old April Jones went missing.

Monday October 1

7pm - April is playing with friends in the mid-Wales town of Machynlleth when she goes missing. According to witnesses she is taken away in a van or a four-wheel drive vehicle and there are no apparent signs of a struggle.

10.30pm - Dyfed Powys Police issue a statement saying: "We are increasingly concerned for a missing five-year-old, April, who was last seen playing on her bike in Machynlleth at about 7.30pm. April was seen getting into a light-coloured van as it drove off." Hundreds of local volunteers join the search for the little girl, and publicity is raised on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday October 2

8.30am - Police reveal more information about the circumstances of April's disappearance. The force said: "Her abduction took place around 7pm in the Bryn-y-Gog estate in Machynlleth. It was witnessed by another young child when April was seen getting into a grey or light-coloured van, or van-sized vehicle.

"At the time of her disappearance, April was wearing a purple knee-length coat with grey fur around the hood, her school white polo top and black trousers."

Local support for the search effort continues, with binmen downing tools to help. A leisure centre is used as a co-ordination point.

12pm - Detective Superintendent Reg Bevan, from Dyfed Powys Police, tells reporters it appears April got into the vehicle willingly. Officers are tackling the "delicate and time-consuming" task of speaking to the children who were with April around the time she was kidnapped, he says.

He also raises the possibility that the vehicle could be left-hand drive, as it appeared that April had got into the driver's side.

Police say they want to make sure that search volunteers are used in a co-ordinated way.

4.30pm - Police announce that a 46-year-old man has been arrested in connection with April's abduction. Mr Bevan says he was detained at about 3.30pm while walking along the side of the road a couple of miles outside Machynlleth. He lives locally and has a vehicle similar to the one described by witnesses who saw April's abduction, Mr Bevan says. He also says the vehicle has been recovered. He says the police's priority is finding April alive.

6pm - A special vigil service is held at St Peter's Church in Machynlleth, where prayers are said and candles lit for the safe return of the five-year-old.

7.45pm - It emerges that the man arrested over the abduction of April is known to her family.

8pm - He is named by sources as Mark Bridger, 46.

9.30pm - April's family release a statement through police, saying their lives have been "shattered".

The statement, read by Mr Bevan, says: "Last night our lives were shattered when our beautiful little girl April who was playing with friends was taken from us. We are devastated and our lives have stopped. Please, please if you have our little girl, let her come home to us."

Wednesday October 3

7.30am - Police say the overnight search, involving 40 trained police officers, dog handlers and mountain rescue teams, has yielded no news on April's whereabouts. Superintendent Ian John thanks the public for their efforts and warns of the "challenging conditions", asking people to leave the search to "members of our trained and skilled teams".

10.30am - Police release a photograph of Mark Bridger, 46, and confirm his identity to "end speculation". They also release a photograph of his Land Rover Discovery, which was seized from a repair garage in Machynlleth.

12.30pm - April's mother Coral Jones makes an emotional plea for any information that will help in the search. Ms Jones, who was accompanied by her stepfather, Dai Smith, sobbed as she said: "It's been 36 hours since April was taken from us. There must be someone out there who knows where she is and can help the police find her. We are desperate for any news. April is only five years old. Please, please, help find her."

6.30pm - It is revealed that April Jones regularly played with the daughters of Bridger, who is being questioned about her disappearance.

6.40pm - It emerges that Bridger's son joined the search for April before his father was arrested by police. Scott Williams says he has been estranged from his 46-year-old father for most of his life and only met him a couple of months before April disappeared.

11.30pm Detectives are given an extra 12 hours to question Bridger.

Thursday October 4

5.30pm - Superintendent Ian John says he is "very heartened" after the force receives more than 2,500 phone calls with information and investigators remain "determined" to find April.

11am Police appeal saying they are trying to "piece together" Bridger's movements around the time the five-year-old disappeared, as he is interviewed again.

4.30pm - Pink ribbons appear on homes across Machynlleth in a heartfelt show of solidarity for missing April, following an appeal from her mother for people to wear a pink ribbon.

Friday October 5

10.30am - Mr Bevan reveals Bridger is arrested on suspicion of murder.

12pm - It is revealed that murder suspect Mark Bridger attended the same school parents' evening - at Ysgol Gynradd Machynlleth - as April's mother and father just hours before the five-year-old disappeared.

Saturday October 6

3.40pm Bridger is charged with the abduction and murder of April.

McCann's pledge support to parents of missing April Jones, 02 October 2012
McCann's pledge support to parents of missing April Jones ITV News Central

Missing 5 year old April Jones Credit: ITV Central
Missing 5 year old April Jones Credit: ITV Central

Last updated Tue 2 Oct 2012 4:11PM

Kate and Gerry McCann pledged their support to the parents of missing April Jones. The couple from Leicestershire are still hunting for their daughter Madeleine who was snatched from her parent's holiday apartment in Portugal on May 3, 2007 when she was three years old.

The McCann's official spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "Kate and Gerry are aware of the case and their thoughts and prayers are with April, her family and the local community."

Family of Madeleine McCann send 'thoughts and prayers' to April Jones, 02 October 2012
Family of Madeleine McCann send 'thoughts and prayers' to April Jones Wales Online

April Jones in the coat she was wearing when she disappeared
April Jones in the coat she was wearing when she disappeared

Oct 2 2012

The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have said they are praying for the safe return of five-year-old April Jones.

April has been missing since being seen getting into a van in her home town of Machynlleth at around 7pm on Monday night.

Police have arrested a 46-year-old man over the disappearance of April, who remains missing.

Gerry and Kate McCann, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in 2007, said they were following events closely.

Madeleine has never been found despite a worldwide search.

A statement issued through the family's spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "Kate and Gerry are aware of the situation regarding April.

"Their thoughts and prayers are with April, her family and the local community."

No room for complacency on safety of our children, 03 October 2012
No room for complacency on safety of our children Irish Independent

Editorial
Wednesday October 03 2012

It is every parent's ultimate nightmare, an incident that brings back memories of Madeleine McCann and other young children who disappeared.

A five-year-old girl was innocently playing with friends near her home in the small Welsh town of Machynlleth when suddenly she went missing.

Towns and villages similar to Machynlleth can be found in every corner of Ireland. In the normal course of events, parents on the estate of five-year-old April Jones could allow their children to play out on the green next to their homes without any fear that they would come to harm.

Householders are confident enough to leave bicycles and other personal possessions out on grass verges, because there is little danger that they will ever be stolen.

No wonder there was disbelief when a young child went missing, and a tremendous community effort to join in the search. Hundreds of people in the town volunteered to try to find the five-year-old, and locals put up posters of April as part of their search efforts.

At the time of going to press, the search was still going on to find young April.

Regrettably, in America child disappearances are all too common, with the faces of the disappeared appearing on milk cartons. They are symbols of a society that is in some ways dysfunctional.

Thankfully, such incidents are as rare in Ireland as they are in rural Wales, but there is no room for complacency.

April Jones, 03 October 2012
April Jones Sky News

April Jones

03 October 2012
With thanks to aquila/CMOMM forum for transcript

Mark Bridger, a man known to the family of missing five-year-old April Jones, is currently being questioned by police in connection with her disappearance...

Sky News reporter: "How do those interviews [of a suspect] go?"

Graham Wettone [Sky News Police Analyst]: "It can be very difficult. People don't ordinarily tell you what you want to know. You have to ask them questions and as we've seen before in other cases they can make 'no comment' interviews. They can actually just sit there and say nothing. It takes a very hard person to sit there in a case like this and actually say nothing at all but they can just sit there and say nothing. Very difficult for the interviewing officers."

Suffolk/Essex: Dog teams on standby to help in search for April Jones, 04 October 2012
Suffolk/Essex: Dog teams on standby to help in search for April Jones EADT

SEARCH teams from East Anglia have been put on standby to help in the hunt for April Jones.

People searching for missing girl April Jones, Machynlleth.
People searching for missing girl April Jones, Machynlleth.

Matt Gaw
Thursday, October 4, 2012 4:23 PM

It is four days since the five-year-old went missing from Machynlleth, Powys.

A 10-15 mile area around 32 villages, concentrating on about 15 communities, is currently being searched by teams made up largely of local people.

Specialist teams are also searching around the River Dyfi, the Dyfi forest and mine shafts.

Kevin Waterson, search manager of East Anglian branch of the National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA), said a team of 15 people and seven dogs were standing by to take the five hour trip to Wales.

Mr Waterson, of Bury St Edmunds, added: "We are trained to do a job and if we are needed then we will be there."

The search manager, whose team helped locate one of the victims of Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright, said he was expecting more information tonight.

The trained "air scenting" and "trailing" dogs, which are a mixture of Border Collies, German Shepherds and Springer Spaniels, would join NSARDA teams from Dartmoor and Lake District who are already on site.

Meanwhile police have renewed an appeal over suspect Mark Bridger's movements, as they are given until 5pm on Friday to question him.

Detectives have said they are dealing with a "vast amount of forensic analysis".

At a news conference on Thursday, Det Supt Reg Bevan, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: "We need information from the public which may help us find April.

"In particular we are looking to trace the movements of Mark Bridger between 6.30pm on Monday and 3.30pm on Tuesday and any sightings of him between these times.

"We want to ensure that we do all we can to find her, and at the same time do nothing to jeopardise the effort to locate her.

"In addition, if anyone had contact with him between these times, we would urge you to come forward.

"By contact I mean any contact - including face to face, telephone, text or social media.

"We also need information regarding the movements of the blue Land Rover Discovery registration L503 MEP between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon."

April Jones search: Madeleine McCann expert drafted in, 04 October 2012
April Jones search: Madeleine McCann expert drafted in Wales Online

Search teams continue the hunt for April Jones
Search teams continue the hunt for April Jones

Oct 4 2012

One of the world's leading forensic psychologists, who was involved in the Madeleine McCann case, has been brought in to help detectives interviewing the key suspect in the five-year-old's abduction from Machynlleth, the Times has reported.

Joe Sullivan, who advised British and Portuguese police in the 2003 McCann case, has been sent to Dyfed-Powys Police by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), the newspaper's Friday edition reports.

It adds that officers from the Welsh force recently received training from Chris Stevenson, a now-retired detective who led the investigation into the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Cambridgeshire 10 years ago.

It came as a report in Friday's Daily Mirror said two women spotted a man carrying a bin bag and scrambling down a river bank the day after April was abducted.

------------------
Related reading: Dr Joe Sullivan

April Jones: Madeleine McCann expert drafted in to help, 05 October 2012
April Jones: Madeleine McCann expert drafted in to help The Telegraph

The forensic psychologist who advised detectives searching for Madeleine McCann has been drafted in to help investigate the April Jones abduction, it has emerged.

April Jones / Madeleine McCann (inset)

By Richard Alleyne and Victoria Ward
10:29AM BST 05 Oct 2012

Joe Sullivan, who advised British and Portuguese police in the search for Madeleine McCann, is one of the experts to have been drafted into the Dyfed Powys police investigation team.

Dr Sullivan, an expert in the character and behaviour of child sex offenders, is said to be giving advice to the detectives interviewing the key suspect, Mark Bridger, according to the Times.

He will help them frame questions and interpret his responses.

(...)

Don't blame April's parents for letting her play outside, 05 October 2012
Don't blame April's parents for letting her play outside Daily Mail

Jan Moir

By JAN MOIR
PUBLISHED: 01:53, 5 October 2012 | UPDATED: 10:09, 5 October 2012

This week, Machynlleth became the place that refused to give up hope. Almost since the moment she went missing, hundreds of residents of the Welsh market town joined the police search for five-year-old April Jones. All anyone knew was that a man had taken April away in a van — a terrifying scrap of information.

Volunteers, family and friends beat down the panic as they joined mountain rescue volunteers, police-trained search officers, dog handlers, RNLI boats, a team of kayakers, a marine unit and experienced local cavers in the hunt. All of them ransacking the surrounding countryside, above and below ground, with increasing desperation.

Those who couldn't take part tied pink ribbons to the fence outside April's home as the wait for news continued. There has been little in the way of comfort for parents Paul and Coral, but they must have taken some tiny solace in the ribbons fluttering on their fence — a silent message of support and love from the community.

As anything approaching normal life fades into the margins, the efforts of both the police and the locals have been inspiring. It's always good to be reminded that a crisis can still bring out the very best in ordinary people. April lives in the kind of old-fashioned, working-class community where everyone knows everybody else. On her home street, Bryn-y-Gog, the houses are circled like wagons, with a communal play area in the middle. In this tiny neighbourhood, surrounded by fields and hills, parents could depend on each other to keep an eye out for their kids.

On the evening of April's disappearance, her mother and father went to a short parents' meeting at the local school, leaving her playing in the communal garden with her friend. There was nothing to worry about. Why should there be?

As time marches on, all we can do is sympathise with the agony of a mother and father going through a hell that is no fault of their own. They must not be blamed — and they must not blame themselves.

Of course, some will criticise, but there are always those who will censure the parents of missing children rather than condemn the real evil at the heart of the tragedy — the person or persons unknown who have taken the child away.

It remains a disgrace that loving parents Gerry and Kate McCann still have to endure the malice of strangers who have convinced themselves of some dark parental involvement in the disappearance of their daughter, Madeleine, while somewhere out there, whoever took her still walks free.

In an emergency like this, parents are always in the wrong, no matter what they do. Last month, a National Trust report claimed that children were being cut off from nature by mollycoddling mums and dads who refused to let them play outside and get dirty. It also warned that children are increasingly leading 'sedentary and sheltered' lives due to health and safety fears and the rise of telly and video games.

On a sunny autumn evening, April was outside playing on her bicycle with her chums. What could be more innocent? Children can't grow up on a leash and, really, what parents haven't allowed their offspring out of their sight?

This summer, David Cameron — who sent a message of support to April's family — accidentally left his eight-year-old daughter in a country pub. Nancy was quickly returned home with no harm done — he was lucky. To their enduring despair, the McCanns and many like them did not share his good fortune.

Whatever happens next in this small Welsh town, it seems unlikely that life will ever be quite the same again. April's little girl sweetness makes her disappearance so incredibly piercing for everyone. That, and the knowledge that she has cheerfully endured cerebral palsy and other health difficulties make her seem especially vulnerable.

Her smile in photographs speaks of a little girl who knew nothing of the bad things in life. As the pink ribbons multiply across Machynlleth, we can but hope — however desperately — that this story might yet have a happy ending.

Two words to haunt any mum: 'If only...', 06 October 2012
Two words to haunt any mum: 'If only...' Daily Mail

Amanda Platell

By AMANDA PLATELL
PUBLISHED: 00:10, 6 October 2012 | UPDATED: 00:48, 6 October 2012

There can be no mother in Britain more moved by the plight of little April Jones than Kate McCann.

Like April's mother, Coral, Kate knows the searing pain of losing a young daughter she thought was safe. And she knows the torment of that constant nagging thought, 'If only...'

If only she hadn't left her outside. If only she'd been with her family.

Agony: Gerry and Kate suffered the cruel vilification of strangers who accused them of parental neglect

Agony: Gerry and Kate suffered the cruel vilification of strangers who accused them of parental neglect

--------------------

When Madeleine McCann went missing five years ago, the beautiful little girl was almost four years old — a year younger than April. Over the ensuing weeks, Gerry and Kate suffered the cruel vilification of strangers who accused them of parental neglect.

How could any loving parents leave Maddie and their young twins alone in an apartment in an Algarve resort while they and their friends wined and dined nearby, the critics asked.

Mercifully, Coral Jones has not been subjected to similar accusations. Yet. She and April's father had allowed their daughter to play out later than usual as a treat on Monday, it has emerged, because she'd just been given a glowing report at a school parents' evening.

The little girl with cerebral palsy often played outside with her friends in the evening. Locals prided themselves on their safe community.

Judging by the way that community has pulled together — hundreds of them searching for April — my belief is that the majority will think: 'There but for the grace of God go I.'

For what parent does not have a tale of the moment they thought they had lost their child — whether in a supermarket, on holiday, or in the park.

The terrible truth is that no child is ultimately safe away from their parents, whether it be a luxury resort in Portugal or a rural idyll in Wales.

Reporters sent to April's home town say the only words they have heard for days are: 'Is there any news?' Well, yesterday came the devastating development that police had arrested Mark Bridger on suspicion of murder.

But before the trolls take to the internet, let nobody doubt that whatever unfolds in the days ahead, April's parents will be their own harshest critics. They deserve all the sympathy in the world.

'Troll' arrested over April posting, 06 October 2012
'Troll' arrested over April posting Lancashire Evening Post

A Chorley man has been arrested for making a sick 'joke' about missing youngster, April Jones, on Facebook

A Chorley man has been arrested for making a sick 'joke' about missing youngster, April Jones, on Facebook

By David Coates
Published on
Sunday 7 October 2012 13:04

An internet 'troll' who made a sick joke about missing youngster April Jones will appear in court on Monday.

Matthew Wood, 20, of Eaves Lane, Chorley, was arrested at an address in Brinscall on Saturday after going on the run when a 'joke' made about the youngster sparked outrage on social networking website, Facebook.

He will appear before magistrates in Chorley on Monday morning charged.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: "An arrest was made at an address in Brinscall on Saturday and we can confirm we have charged Matthew Wood with breaching Section 27 of the Communications Act, namely sending a public electronic communication which is grossly offensive.

"He has been remanded in custody and will appear before Chorley Magistrates Court on Monday."

The posting about the abducted five-year-old, which also relates to the missing youngster Madeleine McCann, was made on Mr Wood's Facebook account on Thursday.

On Saturday, Dyfed Powys Police confirmed they have charged mechanic Mark Bridger, 46, with the abduction and murder of April.

He is also accused of perverting the course of justice and will appear before Aberystwyth Magistrates' Court on Monday.

The five-year-old remains missing despite an intensive, ongoing search for the youngster who was last seen playing on her bike at 7.30pm on Monday near her home in Machynlleth, Wales.

Man, 20, charged after 'posting offensive comments on Facebook about April Jones and likening her to Madeleine McCann', 07 October 2012
Man, 20, charged after 'posting offensive comments on Facebook about April Jones and likening her to Madeleine McCann' Daily Mail

Matthew Wood, from Chorley, Lancashire, to appear at magistrates' court
Arrested and charged with sending 'grossly offensive message or matter'
Comments he allegedly made were posted online on his Facebook account

By MARK DUELL
PUBLISHED: 18:28, 7 October 2012 | UPDATED: 01:27, 8 October 2012

A man was yesterday charged with posting offensive comments on Facebook about April Jones.

Matthew Wood, 20, from Chorley, Lancashire, will appear at the town's magistrates' court today over comments posted about the missing five-year-old girl from Machynlleth, Wales.

He was arrested and charged under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 with sending a message or other matter that is grossly offensive on a public electronic communications network.

Helping hand: A Facebook group set up for her, called 'Find April Jones', has more than 215,00 likes

The charge comes after comments he allegedly made were posted online on his Facebook account.

The posting allegedly relates to Madeleine McCann - the British girl aged three who vanished in 2007 from the Algarve, Portugal - and was made last Thursday, reported the Lancashire Evening Post.

Yesterday, hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects as an emotional service took place for the five-year-old who went missing on Monday night from near her home in the mid Wales town.

April, who has cerebral palsy, was playing out on her bicycle as a treat for a good school report when she vanished. A Facebook group set up for her, called 'Find April Jones', has more than 215,000 likes.

Ex-lifeguard Mark Bridger, 46, was charged yesterday with her abduction and murder. He is also accused of perverting the course of justice and will be at Aberystwyth Magistrates' Court today.

A procession of more than 700 people walked slowly through Machynlleth, as normal life came to a standstill, and gathered at the Bryn-y-Gog estate from where she was abducted on Monday evening.

With crowds wearing pink ribbons symbolising the faith many still have that the girl remains alive, the procession moved in subdued silence through the town, which had roads closed off.

Inside the church, Reverend Kathleen Rogers addressed the congregation, as she offered prayers for April's parents Coral, 40, and Paul, 44, who did not attend the ceremony.

She said: 'We cannot bring little April, our sweet and innocent little girl, home as we had hoped. But our hope has now been moved on to sure and certain hope that she is in the arms of Jesus.'

'Coral and Paul may not be with us this morning but we hold them very close in our hearts as we pray for them. There are hundreds of people today searching our town, our countryside, our river.

'Many hundreds more have been searching this last week. We thank them and we pray for them as they came to us in our hour of need and they continue to be with us.'

Dogs join in April Jones search, 08 October 2012
Dogs join in April Jones search Daily Star

ABOVE: A specialist search dog rides on a boat on the River Dyfi as the hunt for missing April Jones continues

By Daily Star Reporter
8th October 2012

A SPECIAL dog trained to find bodies underwater has been brought in to help the desperate search for missing April Jones.

Three-year-old Springer Spaniel Barra can sniff out human remains lying below the surface.

The dog and his owner Iain Marshall were helping police divers as they scoured the River Dyfi yesterday.

Mr Marshall said: "Using dogs like Barra helps the underwater teams."

Teenager admits posting sick jokes on Facebook about April, 08 October 2012
Teenager admits posting sick jokes on Facebook about April Irish Independent

By Kim Pilling
Monday October 08 2012

A TEENAGER has admitted making grossly offensive comments on his Facebook page about missing youngster April Jones.

Matthew Woods, 19, from Chorley, Lancashire, made a number of derogatory posts about April and missing Madeline McCann after getting the idea from Sickipedia - a website that "trades in sick jokes".

Among his comments were: "I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place."

Another read: "Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?"

Others stated "I love April Jones" and "Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument ever. April Fools, Who Wants Maddie?"

He also wrote comments of a sexually explicit nature about the five-year-old who went missing last week from near her home in Machynlleth, mid Wales.

Chorley Magistrates' Court heard members of the public were so upset about his postings that they reported them to the police.

A "vigilante mob" of around 50 people later descended upon his home address in Eaves Lane and the defendant was arrested on Saturday night at a separate address for his own safety.

Martina Jay, prosecuting, said: "When interviewed by police he fully admitted he posted messages about the two missing children.

"He started this idea when he was at a friend's house when drinking, saw a joke on Sickipedia and changed it slightly.

"He said he did it in a bid to make people think his account had been hacked. He said it got out of hand and he was drunk while doing it."

He conceded to police that his Facebook account - available to a large number of people - had not been hacked and that he was responsible for all the postings made on October 3 and 4.

Unemployed Woods entered a guilty plea to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive.

After meeting his client for the first time, defending solicitor David Edwards told the bench: "What struck me immediately is that the enormity of what he has done has finally sunk in.

"He did seem genuinely remorseful and regretful for what he had done.

"At the time he posted these comments not once did he think he would find himself where he is today."

He said Woods got the idea for the posting from Sickipedia "which basically trades in sick jokes".

Mr Edwards added: "He started receiving derogatory replies almost immediately and then came threats.

"The reality is that before long a number of people realised what he had done and sought him out."

The solicitor said Woods explained what had started as a joke had gone wrong.

"He realises this will have a profound effect on him," he continued. "With the publicity that has followed he will be known as the man who made these comments on Facebook.

"He has to live with this because of his stupidity.

"His future is uncertain. He does not know whether he can go back to his home address.

"He fully accepts he was the author of his own misfortune.

"Nothing like this is going to happen again. He appreciates what he has done and puts himself at the mercy of the court."

He asked for a community service order to be considered but the bench was told that custody could be imposed for anyone who is convicted of using extreme language that causes substantial distress or fear to another.

The bench asked for a pre-sentence report from a probation officer and said it would keep all options open ahead of sentencing.

April Jones murder: teenager jailed over offensive Facebook posts, 08 October 2012
April Jones murder: teenager jailed over offensive Facebook posts The Guardian

Matthew Woods, 19, jailed for three months over 'abhorrent' comments about April Jones and Madeleine McCann

Press Association
Monday 8 October 2012 16.02 BST

April Jones murder: Matthew Woods also wrote sexually explicit comments on Facebook about the missing five-year-old.

A man who posted "despicable" comments on his Facebook page about the missing five-year-old April Jones has been jailed for 12 weeks.

Matthew Woods, 19, from Chorley, Lancashire, made derogatory posts about April and missing Madeleine McCann after getting the idea from Sickipedia, a website that "trades in sick jokes".

Among his comments was: "I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place." Another read: "Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?"

Others stated: "I love April Jones" and "Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument ever. April Fools, Who Wants Maddie?"

He also wrote comments of a sexually explicit nature about April, who went missing last week from near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales.

Woods, who is unemployed, was arrested for his own safety on Saturday night and was remanded in custody before his appearance at Chorley magistrates court on Monday, where he pleaded guilty to sending a message or other matter that is grossly offensive by means of a public electronic communications network.

The chairman of the bench, Bill Hudson, said Woods's comments were so serious and "abhorrent" that he deserved the longest sentence they could pass, less a third, to give credit for his early guilty plea.

Hudson said: "We have listened to the evidence in what can only be described as a disgusting and despicable crime and the bench finds was completely abhorrent. The words and references used to the current case in Wales and that of the missing girl in Portugal are nothing less than shocking, so much so that no right-thinking person in society should have communicated to them such fear and distress."

He added that families involved in such cases should not have to be subjected to this type of misuse of social media.

Only a custodial term in a young offender institute was appropriate, Hudson said, which was greeted by applause from about 30 people in the public gallery.

He added: "The reason for the sentence is the seriousness of the offence, the public outrage that has been caused, and we felt there was no other sentence this court could have passed which conveys to you the abhorrence that many in society feel this crime should receive."

Woods smirked as members of the public clapped as he was led from the dock.

The Law is a Twit, 09 October 2012
The Law is a Twit The Huffington Post (UK)

JoshuaRozenberg2.jpg

By Jamie Thunder - Freelance journalist
Posted: 09/10/2012 00:00

What's the difference between Madeleine McCann and Pope John Paul II? You won't go to prison for telling jokes about Pope John Paul II.

Admittedly Matthew Woods, who has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison for his comments on Facebook, didn't only make jokes about Madeleine McCann - he also made light of the disappearance and tragically likely death of April Jones.

It's probably the latter that was responsible for his upcoming time at Her Majesty's pleasure. The jokes weren't funny, and making them while the case is so raw was always likely to have some sort of backlash if they found a wider audience, as he found when a 'vigilante mob' showed up at his house.

Woods doesn't seem like a particularly sympathetic character - according to the Evening Standard, he smirked when he was led from the dock. But whatever you think of his sense of humour, you have to question the constitution of whichever member of the public found what he said (and I won't repeat it here) so distressing.

This would be very different had he deliberately directed them to April Jones's family, but so far there's no suggestion he did, or even that they've seen them. The court case, sentence, and resulting coverage, of course, makes it far more likely that they will. Instead, members of the public reported him to police. Those members of the public, well-meaning as they almost certainly are, need to grow up.

I've yet to find anyone who agrees with the sentence itself, which is ludicrously harsh and will presumably be overturned. But some people have defended his conviction on the grounds it's similar to shouting the comments in a public place, which would land you with a public order offence.

It's a tempting analogy, but it doesn't hold. Shouting in public can travel to people who just happen to be in the area at the time, and so is a form of particular carelessness. In contrast, the only ways people would have seen his comments are if they were friends with him on Facebook, or were searching for 'April Jones'. If it's the first, they've made the decision to follow him. If it's the second, well, we'd best all stop making dead baby jokes in case someone who's miscarried overhears.

Facebook (if you don't impose privacy controls) and especially Twitter are strange things: semi-public forums many of us still think of as entirely private. Recent high-profile cases around 'terrorist threats' to Robin Hood Airport, rioters, and racism towards footballers have thrust social media and the law into the ring, and they're still warily circling each other.

The current situation can't hold. Matthew Woods is not the only person who's made April Jones jokes, and he's not the only one to have done so from an identifiable social media account. He might just have been the only one unlucky enough to have been spotted and reported.

But even aside from the arbitrary nature of his prosecution and the bizarrely strict sentence he's received, this is a prosecution that should never have been brought. Matthew Woods was crude; that someone can be imprisoned for making the wrong joke at the wrong time is what's really offensive.

April Jones Facebook comments: should Matthew Woods be in prison?, 09 October 2012
April Jones Facebook comments: should Matthew Woods be in prison? The Guardian

Director of public prosecutions to draft guidelines about prosecution for offensive, indecent, or obscene comments online

Joshua Rozenberg - Tuesday 9 October 2012 11.18 BST

Should Matthew Woods have been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison for making "grossly offensive" remarks about the missing five-year-old girl April Jones on his Facebook page? While Woods, 19, was pleading guilty to the offence in Chorley magistrates' court on Monday -- and while Mark Bridger, 46, was appearing before Aberystwyth magistrates charged with April's murder -- the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, was sitting round a table with a group of journalists discussing whether people like Woods should face charges in the first place.

Starmer made it clear that he had to enforce the law as it was; he couldn't grant immunities. On the other hand, the Crown Prosecution Service, which he heads, couldn't prosecute everyone who sent an offensive tweet or email. So the DPP is in the process of drawing up draft guidelines, which he hopes to circulate for public comment next month.

Before that, he is discussing the possible scope of those guidelines in meetings with journalists, lawyers, academics, regulators and key stakeholders.

Starmer disclosed his plans last month when announcing that he would not be prosecuting the semi-professional footballer Daniel Thomas for posting a homophobic message on Twitter about the Olympic divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield.

The fundamental question Starmer has to decide is how to balance freedom of expression against the restrictions on free speech laid down by parliament.

Woods was convicted under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which makes it an offence to send a "message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" using a "public electronic communications network". The maximum penalty is six months' imprisonment.

His defence lawyer told the court: "In one moment of drunken stupidity he places himself as public enemy number two – behind only the person who carried out this crime." But should Woods have faced charges at all?

Before considering just how offensive a message had to be to qualify as "grossly" offensive, the journalists sitting round Starmer's table urged him to set a high threshold for bringing prosecutions under section 127. As the DPP's own officials had noted, it was not the job of the criminal law to protect the public against remarks that were in bad taste or opinions that were controversial. The European court of human rights decided as long ago as 1976 that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to say things or express opinions "that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population".

On the other hand, Starmer thought a message might be more likely to lead to a prosecution if it was part of a campaign of harassment against an individual or individuals; if it was a credible threat to the life of the recipient or the recipient's family; or if it was an incitement to hatred on grounds of gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Someone who retweeted a message -- particularly if that gave it a much larger circulation -- might also face prosecution.

There was some lively discussion about the factors that should make a prosecution less likely. What if the message was meant as a joke, as Woods had apparently claimed his Facebook comments were? That should surely not be a get-out-of-jail card, although we seem to give stand-up comedians and political satire programmes much greater latitude on grounds of racist jokes and bad language. What if a message was not intended to become public or the author did not expect it to be seen by the person he was writing about? That should be no defence if a message was posted on Twitter -- users ought to know by now that a tweet is more like a broadcast than a email -- though it might protect emails themselves.

And should the CPS take account of the degree of distress caused to recipients or their families? It was suggested that prosecutors should be wary of attaching too much weight to subjective factors -- although it might be difficult to prove a case without the victim's co-operation.

These were no more than points for discussion and may not appear in this form when the draft guidelines are published. But they give some idea of thinking within the CPS. Prosecutors have to exercise their discretion in every charge they bring and it is not always easy to decide where the public interest lies.

Should Starmer be influenced by the substantial prison sentence passed on people like Woods -- approaching the maximum, given the one-third discount for an immediate plea of guilty? Or by the strength of public feeling? Woods was apparently arrested for his own safety after about 50 people encircled his home.

Less so, I would argue. People who cause needless hurt and offence to bereaved families and their supporters should be censured, shunned and shamed. Prosecution and possible imprisonment should be reserved for those who make credible threats to kill or maim others, putting their victims in genuine fear for their safety.

And what of the hapless Woods? He can hardly appeal against conviction, given that he pleaded guilty on the strength of perfectly sound legal advice. On the other hand, an appeal against sentence may stand some prospect of success. It certainly ought to.

Jailed for Facebook on Madeleine McCann and missing youngster April Jones, 10 October 2012
Jailed for Facebook on Madeleine McCann and missing youngster April Jones Leicester Mercury

Leicester Mercury
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A man who posted "disgusting and despicable" online comments about Madeleine McCann and missing youngster April Jones has been jailed for 12 weeks.

Matthew Woods made a number of derogatory posts about both Madeleine, from Rothley, who went missing in Portugal in 2007, and April, who went missing near her home in Machynlleth, in Wales, last week, on his Facebook page.

Matthew Woods

Matthew Woods made a number of derogatory posts about both Madeleine, from Rothley, who went missing in Portugal in 2007, and April, who went missing near her home in Machynlleth, in Wales, last week, on his Facebook page.

Sentencing Woods, 19, at Chorley Magistrates' Court, on Monday, chairman of the bench Bill Hudson said the "disgusting and despicable" comments were so serious Woods deserved the longest sentence they could pass – after giving him credit for his early guilty plea.

He said: "The words and references to the current case in Wales and that of the missing girl in Portugal are nothing less than shocking, so much so that no right-thinking person should have communicated to them such fear and distress."

The ruling was greeted by applause from about 30 people sitting in the public gallery, and Woods smirked as they clapped.

The teenager, of Eaves Lane, Chorley, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that was grossly offensive, on October 3 and 4.

The court heard members of the public were so upset about his postings they reported them to police, and a "vigilante mob" of about 50 people descended on his home. He was arrested on Saturday night.

Martina Jay, prosecuting, said he began posting while drinking at a friend's house after getting the idea from Sickipedia – a website that "trades in sick jokes".

She said: "When interviewed by police, he admitted he posted messages about the two missing children.

"He said he did it to make people think his account had been hacked. He said it got out of hand and he was drunk while doing it."

David Edwards, defending, said Woods was remorseful and regretful.

He said: "With the publicity that follows he will be known as the man who made these comments on Facebook. He has to live with this because of his stupidity."

The Mercury tried to contact the McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell for a comment.

He did not respond, but after comedian Frankie Boyle made an offensive comment about Madeleine last week, Mr Mitchell said, "the family will not dignify any of them by commenting".

The Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page has posted messages of support to April's family in the wake of her disappearance.

After posing appeals for information to more than 100,000 followers, they said: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to April's family."

Madeleine McCann was nearly four when she went missing from her family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Algarve, in May 2007.

April Jones disappeared on October 1, while playing outside her home.

Facebook 'jokers' should stop and think, 11 October 2012
Facebook 'jokers' should stop and think IOL (South Africa)

By CHRISTINA PATTERSON
October 11 2012 at 03:30pm

London - The man who posted Facebook messages that made jokes about April Jones, and Madeleine McCann, and transit vans, and April fools, didn't cry in court.

He didn't say if he had cried when he wrote those messages, after seeing a joke on a website called Sickipedia. He didn't say if he had cried when he made jokes about the missing five-year-old and sex.

Matthew Woods didn't say whether he was surprised to be arrested "for his own safety" when about 50 people he didn't know turned up at his home. He didn't say whether he was surprised that 50 people had read his Facebook posts, and whether, perhaps, that was more people than had ever read his posts before. He didn't say if what he felt, when the people turned up, was a little bit of pleasure at a little bit of fame. But he did plead guilty to a crime. He did, in fact, plead guilty to the charge of "sending a grossly offensive public electronic communication".

Some of us didn't know it was a crime. Some of us, and particularly those of us who get tweets, and emails, and online messages, saying that we're stupid, and ugly, and calling us words we can't quote in a family newspaper, didn't know that saying nasty things in "electronic communication" was a crime. Some of us thought that saying nasty things "in electronic communication" was entirely normal. And that, if it was a crime, you'd be prosecuting people all the time.

But apparently it is. According to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, it is. According to this Act, if you send a message that's "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character", or a series of messages that are "intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety", it is. And the Crown Prosecution Service, and the magistrates who saw the messages, which joked about a missing five-year-old as someone you might want to have sex with, decided that it was. And sentenced Matthew Woods to three months in jail.

Matthew Woods, who's 19, and unemployed, didn't tell the court that he felt lonely and inadequate. He didn't tell them that he was on Facebook because it made him feel, in ways he usually didn't feel, that he was part of a community. He didn't say that what he liked about this community was that you could behave as if other people weren't real. But most people who post nasty messages on social media do feel lonely and inadequate, and most of them do behave as if other people aren't real. They behave, in fact, as if other people are just there to provide an audience so that they can show off.

Perhaps these people really do think that if you can't see a person, they can't be real. Perhaps they can see a woman on TV crying over her lost child, and think that the best thing to do is to post a joke on Facebook. Perhaps they can't tell the difference between a public arena and their head.

If so, it's time they learnt. If these are our new communities, it's time we all learnt. These new communities might not be like the old communities, where people will give up time, and energy, and the warmth of their homes, to show support. But they can still be communities where people don't think that the way to feel included is to vomit out your darkest thoughts.

In these new communities, we will have to learn to live with being offended. When the insults hurt, we'll have to learn to soak up the bile. But we'll also have to learn to recognise when a line has been crossed. And with Matthew Woods' sad, stupid, sick jokes about a missing five-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, a line was crossed.

Woods, says his lawyer, is "remorseful". He didn't, he says, know what he was doing. Let's hope that he, and all the lonely, inadequate people who spread their misery every time they touch a keyboard, can, through their tears or even without them, see a bit more clearly now.

Jane Devine: When 'offence' causes legal action, our freedom of speech is at risk, 29 October 2012
Jane Devine: When 'offence' causes legal action, our freedom of speech is at risk Scotsman

Frankie Boyle won a libel case against the Daily Mirror, who branded him 'racist'.
Frankie Boyle won a libel case against the Daily Mirror, who branded him 'racist'.

Even if something is said that offends us, it doesn't mean we should all lose freedom of speech, writes Jane Devine

Published on Monday 29 October 2012 00:00

TAKING offence at something is a personal reaction; we are all offended by different things depending on our views, beliefs and the context in which we're reacting. But, when we have a public reaction to something, when "the public" decide that something is offensive, as opposed to just offending them, and when their views influence legal action, we are beginning a process which may end up with us losing our precious right to free speech.

A number of years ago I went to see the comedian, Frankie Boyle, in Edinburgh. During the gig he told a joke about Madeleine McCann. He claimed to have attempted the joke on BBC's Mock the Week a number of times, but it had always been edited out.

I didn't find the joke funny (although plenty of others did) and it did make me feel uncomfortable. I didn't complain though, or report him to the police: it was after all, a joke.

Last week, a jury in England formed a similar view, awarding Frankie Boyle £54,000 of damages, to be paid by the Daily Mirror who had branded him a racist, again on account of a joke.

Yet barely a fortnight earlier, 19-year-old Matthew Woods was jailed for 12 weeks by the same legal system for making jokes about the disappearances of April Jones and Madeleine McCann on his Facebook page. The magistrate in that case cited "causing offence" and "public outrage" as the reasons for imposing the harshest sentence he was able to.

So, on the one hand we have the law upholding freedom of speech and expression; and on the other, the law is curtailing that freedom on the basis of popular opinion and what some people find offensive.

That's not how freedom of speech works. It isn't a continuum: we either have it or we don't. If we have it, we have to have a consistent and mature approach to it and accept we cannot remove it when the subject matter is too raw.

The comments made by Woods may well have been upsetting and distressing, but that is not a reason to jail someone. Particularly when the same comments in another context probably wouldn't have been given much attention.

Would the magistrate have imposed that sentence if the comment was made in two years' time and not when public feeling about April's disappearance was and is so charged? Would Woods have been jailed if the comment was solely about Madeleine McCann who went missing in 2007?

Equally, would Frankie Boyle have been awarded damages of that amount (or at all) if his joke had been about Jimmy Savile and the Mirror had branded him a paedophile?

We cannot jeopardise our right to freedom of speech by applying it when it suits us: removing it on the basis of emotion, or offence, which are entirely subjective and of the moment.

And, we should always remember: it is entirely our choice to take offence. If we choose not to, it can end there.

April Jones 'troll' has sentence cut, 31 October 2012
April Jones 'troll' has sentence cut Lancashire Evening Post

Published on Wednesday 31 October 2012 17:39

A man jailed for posting sick messages on his Facebook page about missing schoolgirl April Jones has had his sentence cut.

Matthew Woods, 20, made a number of derogatory comments about the five-year-old and also Madeleine McCann who disappeared in Portugal in 2007.

The comments led to a mob of around 50 people descending on his home in Chorley, and magistrates sending him to youth custody as they imposed a maximum term last month.

But he has now successfully appealed against his sentence at Preston Crown Court, having claimed the 12-week term was excessive and that magistrates should have given him credit for his guilty plea.

The term was reduced to eight weeks, which means he will be released any day now.

Woods, who had been living at Eaves Lane, Chorley, had pleaded guilty to an offence of sending by means of a public electronic communications netwrork a message or other matter that was grossly offensive.

He has served 23 days to date. After he was arrested he told officers he had been drinking at the time he posted the messages, having got the idea from a website publishing poor taste jokes.

Woods had 21 previous offences on his record, including violence, damage, dishonesty and two public order offences.

Judge Anthony Russell QC said Woods' previous convictions indicated he had little concern for the feelings of others.

His barrister Joanne Shepherd told the court he was deeply ashamed of his behaviour and the custodial sentence had been a short, sharp shock. Having lost his job, he was drinking heavily at the time and came across a joke from a website that had been put on his Facebook page.

Woods then made a vain attempt to try and persuade others that his Facebook page had been hacked. Miss Shepherd said: "He has never received a custodial sentence in the past. This had led him to reconsider the way his life was going at the time.

"He understands the outrage. He understands he will have to relocate."

Judge Anthony Russell QC, the Recorder of Preston, sitting with two magistrates, said the remarks posted by Woods had been "disgusting, offensive and very shocking".

He said: "In our view, it is in the top sentencing category for such an offence. This was a bad case and after a trial the sentence would have been at the top of the range of twelve weeks. We reduce it to give him credit for his guilty plea.

"We hope the short, sharp shock has indeed had its effect on him because, given his record, if he goes on offeding in the way he has, he only has longer sentences to face."

Carol Service 2012, 10 December 2012
Carol Service 2012 Missing People (with video)

Our beautiful Carol Service took place at the fantastic St-Martin-In-The-Fields in Trafalgar Square on Monday 10th December. If you weren't lucky enough to get tickets, or couldn't attend this year, then we have created a film of the event which you can watch below, as well as a series of short films of highlights from the evening.

Kate McCann reads The Contradiction, a poem by Clare Pollard

Kate McCann reads The Contradiction, a poem by Clare Pollard

Missing People, the charity, relies on kind donations from the public. If you were moved by our service, which remembered those missing at Christmas, please donate now by clicking on the donate button below and show the families of missing people you haven't forgotten them.

£50 keeps the search alive for a missing person for over two months

£25 means we can issue 10 urgent poster campaigns to find a child

£10 would pay for a volunteer to follow up a sighting of a missing child

Lighting a Candle, 13 December 2012
Lighting a Candle Clare Pollard

December 13, 2012 by poetclare

On Monday night I went to a carol service in St-Martin's-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, organized by the charity Missing People, to remember those missing at Christmas. I had been invited to write a poem, as it can be difficult to find readings appropriate to those in this 'limbo' – whilst there is loss there is also hope. I wrote this sonnet, 'The Contradiction', which was read very movingly by Kate McCann.


The Contradiction


The absence contradicts itself:

the missing conjures what we miss.

You are not here, I'm not myself,

but still I talk to you like this.

You're in the crowd, the news, the glimpse -

I make you there when you're not there.

I trace your steps, I map your face,

I say your name, see you in air.


You're all I know and so unknown.

I cannot hold you, yet I do:

please let me hold you in my head

and where you are now, hold me too.

How can you be so near and far?

You are not here. But here you are.

Missing People carol service in St-Martin's-in-the-Fields

Later, Elizabeth Templeton read a letter addressed to Santa by her son Alan, found amongst his things after he went missing in in 2006. 'It is possible to make 1000 mistakes in a row. It is possible to get completely lost in bitterness, hate, rage, greed. It is possible to forget the beauty and love which surrounds you and defines who you are. But inside it is still there.'

We sang Silent Night afterwards, and each of us lit a candle to represent our thoughts for those absent.  Mine dripped all over my hands and skirt, but the beauty and sadness of it still made me tearful.

The video of the service is here – Kate's reading is just over 13 minutes in – along with the details on how to donate, and support those with missing relatives at what must be an unbearably difficult time.

What is Christmas if a child is missing? The agony of April Jones' family, 15 December 2012
What is Christmas if a child is missing? The agony of April Jones' family Daily Mirror

I saw Kate McCann at the Missing People Carol Service on Monday and she feels the same

By Fiona Phillips
15 Dec 2012 00:00

Missing at Christmas: April Jones
Missing at Christmas: April Jones

The Jones family have spoken of the agony of having to face Christmas without their five-year-old daughter April who vanished from outside their home in Machynlleth, Mid Wales, in October while playing with friends.

Coral and Paul are finding the thought of Christmas hard to face, but have said in a statement that "as parents of Harley, 10, and Jazmin, 16, we will obviously acknowledge the festive season as best we can".

I saw Kate McCann at the Missing People Carol Service on Monday and she feels the same.

Her eldest daughter, Madeleine, who would now be nine, went missing over five and a half years ago and although Christmas is a particularly hard time of year for her and her husband Gerry, Kate says she's put up the tree and the decorations because as normal a life as possible has to go on for her seven-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.

During the service she read from a poem called The Contradiction, written for her by the poet Clare Pollard, part of which includes the lines:

You are not here, I'm not myself,

but still I talk to you like this.

You're in the crowd, the news, the glimpse –

I make you there when you're not there.

I trace your steps, I map your face,

I say your name, see you in air...

How can you be so near and far?

You are not here. But here you are.

The unimaginable agony of not knowing where a loved one is – especially a child – must be the deepest hurt; a pain with no pain relief, a nightmare from which you cannot wake.

Not knowing if their precious loved ones are alive, dead or going through something that a mind should not even have to imagine must be a torture without end.

At Christmas, we all think of lost loved ones with renewed sadness, love, fondness, grief, but if they're dead, at least we know they're not suffering.

The pain of not knowing and the unspeakable fear of maybe never knowing is something that too many families are living with.

A child goes missing in the UK every five minutes. A quarter of a million people go missing every year.

That's 250,000 families who, right now, are suffering the pain of not knowing.

For the McCanns and the Joneses, December 25 is just another agonising day. If only the spirit of Christmas would touch the cold hearts of those who know where their little girls are.

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files

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