Radio Sandwell News

April Jones trial: Bridger guilty of abduction and murder

2013-05-30 18:53:37

Mark Bridger has been found guilty of abducting and murdering five-year-old April Jones who disappeared while playing near her home last year.

Bridger, 47, of Ceinws, mid Wales, denied murder claiming he accidentally ran April over and could not recall where he had put her body.

The jury at Mold Crown Court took four hours and six minutes to convict him.

April went missing on 1 October 2012 near her Machynlleth home sparking the biggest search in UK police history.

Watched by April's parents Paul, 41, and 43-year-old Coral, the judge told the court he would sentence Bridger later on Thursday.

He also told the jury there was only one sentence, that of life, and he now had to decide the minimum term.

April's mother looked tearful but both parents maintained a dignified silence throughout the verdicts, standing side by side.

April Jones

After the jury and public gallery had been cleared following the verdicts, prosecutors, investigating police officers and court staff were visibly emotional.

April Jones

Never before have I witnessed such
a powerful silence when a jury delivers
its verdict at the end of a highly
emotionally-charged case.

The packed public gallery remained
quiet as the jury of nine women and three
men returned to the courtroom after four
hours and six minutes of deliberations.

Bridger, dressed in a long-sleeved blue
shirt and a tie, closed his eyes and put
his head back as the jury forewoman
prepared to read out the verdict.

His eyes remained closed as each of
the three guilty verdicts were delivered.

The forewoman looked directly at him
as she announced he was guilty first
of abduction, then murder and finally
intending to pervert the course of justice.

April's mother, Coral, looked tearful but
both she and her husband Paul
maintained a dignified silence, as they
have done throughout every day of this
four-and-half-week trial.

Before the verdict, the judge had warned
the court that "absolute silence" was

He warned members of the public
gallery that this was a "stressful" part of
the trial, "particularly for April's parents".

He also told them to have regard for
the defendant.

After the jury delivered their unanimous
verdict, April's parents, supported by
close family members retired to a
family waiting room.

April's father shook hands with some
supporters as he left the public gallery.

After the court had been mostly cleared,
prosecutors, investigating police officers
and even court staff were visibly emotional.

April Jones

The last several months have been a
difficult and upsetting experience for
all the pupils, their families and the
staff at the school.

April was a beautiful and happy pupil.
She was a popular and cheerful child,
who attended the Welsh stream of
Ysgol Gynradd Machynlleth, a little ray
of sunshine and a dear friend to us all.

P>Her loss has been deeply felt by all
those who knew her at the school.

On behalf of the whole school, I would
like to extend our deepest sympathies
to Coral and Paul, their children and
all the family for their loss.

Our priority in the coming months is to
focus on the wellbeing of all of our
pupils and staff as we try to look forward
and not backwards. But this will not be

The happy memories we have of April
are very precious and cherished by us
all. We will continue to keep April in our
thoughts and our hearts.

Before sentencing a statement was read in court on behalf of April's mother which said she would never forget the night they allowed their daughter out to play with her friend, something they had done hundreds of times before.

"We will never see her bring home her first boyfriend and Paul will never walk her down the aisle," it said.

"How will we ever get over it?"

Bridger's defence lawyer later admitted there was "little if any mitigation" to offer and accepted, given his age, his client would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Bridger was also found guilty of intending to pervert the the course of justice.

During the five week trial, the jury heard how April, whose body has never been found, was taken from the Bryn-y-Gog estate in Machynlleth at about 19:00 GMT in October last year.

She had eaten her tea before having a swimming lesson and had nagged her parents to be allowed to go and ride her bike with her friend. They refused saying it was getting late but eventually they gave in to April's tears - a scenario which the judge said "struck a chord with many parents".

April's friend, who was aged seven, recalled how she had shouted to April "come on..." and told her it was getting dark. She could see April talking to Bridger - who would not have been an unfamiliar face on her housing estate - then climb into the front seat of his Land Rover.

She was "happy and smiling" the jury were told.

When arrested the next day, Bridger, a father of six, constructed a "web of lies" to cover up the abduction of April, who had mild cerebral palsy.

"He has played a cruel game in pretending not to know what he has done to her and with her. It is a game to try and save himself," Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, said.

Bridger claimed he had accidentally ran her over and was too drunk to remember where he had left her body.

He said he could not remember how April's blood came to be found at his home and had no recall of an "extensive clean-up operation" inside the cottage.

Fragments of bone consistent with a juvenile human skull were found in ashes in the wood burner, with a number of knives nearby including one that was badly burned.

Bridger was described as being an "experienced slaughterman" at a nearby abattoir.

"What happened to April as she lay bleeding in front of the fire in the defendant's living room?" Ms Evans said.

"One person, we say, knows and he's not prepared to say."

The prosecuting QC argued that Bridger's motive for the assault was sexual.

She highlighted child sex abuse images found on his computer and search terms including "naked young five-year-old girls" as well as pictures of murder victims including the Soham victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

He also had Facebook pictures of local young girls including April's teenage half-sisters.

Bridger's movements

Bridger, the court heard, had broken up with his girlfriend that day and had sent messages to three women on Facebook, asking two of them to meet up with "no strings attached".

He had also viewed pornographic and child sex abuse images on his laptop.

In the hours leading up to April's abduction, Bridger had also approached a 10-year-old friend of his daughter's, asking her if she wanted to come for a sleepover sometime.

April Jones

"We welcome today's verdict, which
brings to a close a difficult and
challenging prosecution.

"Ever since his first interview with
police in October last year, Mark
Bridger has relentlessly spun a web
of lies and half-truths to try and
distance himself from the truly horrific
nature of the crime he perpetrated.
He has refused to take responsibility
for what he did to April and has
stopped at nothing to try and cover his

"Despite his best efforts to evade justice,
he has been brought to account by a
highly professional investigation by
Dyfed-Powys Police, coupled with the
diligence and hard work of the
prosecution team.

"Working together, we have been able to
comprehensively dismantle Bridger's
version of events and expose him as a
violent, cold-hearted murderer and a
calculated liar."

He had gone to a parent's evening at April's school, as had her parents Coral and Paul Jones.

As news of April's disappearance spread in Machynlleth as well as social networking sites across the UK, a number of witnesses came forward to say they had seen Bridger driving around the Bryn-y-Gog estate on the evening April went missing.

The following day, before he became a suspect, he was filmed on a police helicopter camera walking his dog near his cottage, where the chimney smoked fiercely.

People who spoke to him remembered he was perhaps unduly upset about April's disappearance.

Bridger was arrested later that afternoon as he walked along the road out of Machynlleth. His first words after confirming his name to police was "I know what this is about".

From that point on, he became an emotional wreck. In tears he said: "I crushed her with the car. I don't know where she is."

Bridger claimed he did his best to revive April before lifting her body into his car, driving round, swigging vodka and panicking.

Searches of CCTV cameras around the town showed no images of Bridger's car between 1900 GMT and midnight.

Blood and urine tests taken from Bridger also showed no evidence of heavy drinking and an inspection of his vehicle also showed no evidence of a collision.

Bridger, the jury heard, had lied extensively about a past military career, including the SAS, but admitted in court he had made the stories up.

Bridger did spend a lot of time outdoors participating in what he called survival and bush craft and claimed to know the "rugged terrain" around Machynlleth well.

When confronted with indecent pictures of children on his computers, Bridger said they were research so he could understand the physical changes his young daughter was undergoing.

He said he was disgusted by them and had written letters of complaint to the websites who had published them.

As Bridger continued to insist he had no recollection about what he had done with April's remains, the hunt for her went into full force, focusing on around 650 areas near her home town and involving hundreds of experts as well as thousands of members of the public.

Dyfed-Powys Police force received help from 45 other UK forces.

Insp Gareth Thomas who led the search told the jury he was "extremely confident" that if April's body was anywhere in the vicinity, it would have been found.

The seven-month search for her remains was finally called off last month.

Mark Bridger


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