Mark Bridger trial begins as April Jones search ends

ALMOST seven months after the disappearance of five-year-old April Jones near her home in Machynlleth, the trial of Mark Bridger, the man who is accused of her murder, has begun.

5 year old April went missing in October 2012

Bridger, 47, is charged with abducting and murdering April, as well as the unlawful concealment or disposal of her body with the intent to pervert the course of justice. He entered a not guilty plea on 14th January, but has previously admitted that he was probably responsible for her death. When appearing in court on Monday 29th April, he spoke only to confirm his name.

Prosecutor Elwen Evans QC said that Bridger had played a “cruel game” in pretending not to know what he had done, and called it a “game to try and save himself.”

During the course of the trial, it has been revealed that Bridger’s computer showed he had an interest in child sex images, had photographs of local children and an interest in child murder cases, in particular the Soham murder victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

His computer also revealed that he had previously searched for “naked young five year old girls” and “nudism five year old”. On the day April was abducted, he had also viewed a pornographic cartoon which apparently depicted rape.

As the first day of the trial went on, it was revealed that blood with a ‘billion to one’ match to April’s DNA and fragments which are bone fragments consistent with those of a juvenile human skull were found at Bridger’s home in Ceinws, Machynlleth.

The prosecution also revealed that Mr Bridger used fire to dispose of evidence and used detergent as part of an “extensive clean-up” but listed the places where an indication of April’s presence was found; including a concentration of blood near his wood-burner and DNA mixed with Bridger’s and an unidentified individual on the shower curtain.

April’s disappearance, approximately 20 miles from Aberystwyth, sparked one of the biggest search operations in UK history, utilising teams from around the country – marine units, experts in searching confined spaces and mines, fire and rescue urban search and rescue teams, coastguard and mountain rescue teams and specialist dog teams. Whilst the search effort has now ended, a spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police said that “a reactive team of specialist officers will still be available to respond to new information.”

Jury selection began at Mold Crown Court on 29th April, with around 50 potential jurors originally called into court. The final 12, consisting of nine women and three men were decided on Tuesday 30th.

The jurors were taken to Machynlleth on May 2nd to see key locations relating to the case, including Bridger’s home, after which Dyfed-Powys Police released pictures from inside.

The last moments April was seen on CCTV at the leisure centre

There has also been extra information concerning the day April was abducted, including that her parents had been to a parents’ evening at Machynlleth Junior School, on the edge of Bryn-Y-Gog (where April attended school and lived), and April was shown on CCTV at the leisure centre.

More information has also been shown to the court concerning Bridger’s whereabouts as shown by CCTV footage.

Mr Justice Griffith-Williams, the trial judge, told jurors that “it is very important that no person on the jury has any present or past connection with the Machynlleth area, and certainly no connection which would cause any concern about that particular juror sitting on the case.”

The jurors will hear evidence from up to 50 witnesses and were forewarned that they will have to view some of the images stored on Bridger’s computer.

April’s parents, Coral and Paul Jones were seated in the front row of the public gallery in the court, wearing pink ribbons, the symbol of the search effort. On 3rd May, Mrs Jones gave a statement revealing that they were reluctant to let her play outside on the day she was abducted, but April had thrown a “little bit of a tantrum”. 

At 7:20, she had wanted April to come inside again, and sent April’s brother to look for her. Shortly afterwards, he “came running home and he was in a hysterical state”. Her son told her a friend had seen April getting into a car with a man and “had gone”.

It was also revealed that although Mrs Jones and Bridger were not friends they had crossed paths before and would acknowledge each other if they passed. He was, however, friends with her husband.

Mr Jones and Bridger had known each other since 1992-3, because they had been dating sisters. Mr Jones said that he “seemed a pleasant bloke”, although he recalled him driving his car “like a maniac” and said he was “a risk taker”.

The jury also heard evidence from April’s 16-year-old half-sister, who said that Mr Bridger had persistently requested to be a friend on Facebook with her, although she refused multiple times.

The trial continues, and could last until mid-June.

The pictures from inside Bridger’s home

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