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Mark Bridger guilty of April murder

Source BBC News@ tienganhvui.com




LIVE: BBC News coverage of the April Jones murder verdict




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 over four hours to convict him.


April went missing on 1 October last year sparking the biggest search in UK police history.


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 1900 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.


Mark Bridger with gunBridger had spent 20 years telling people he had served in the military, but it was all lies


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 run 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.


Mark Bridger arriving at Aberystwyth police station custody suiteMark Bridger arriving at Aberystwyth police station custody suite


"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".


Mark Bridger's homeMark Bridger originally said April Jones had never been to his house but changed his story at the trial


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.


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, 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.


'I crushed her'

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.


April Jones


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. Her remains have never been found.





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