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Sunday 20 April 2014

April Jones murder accused had child porn and pictures of Soham girls on laptop, court told

THE FORMER abattoir worker accused of abducting and murdering schoolgirl April Jones had "a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases", a court heard today.

Mark Bridger, 47, is on trial at Mold Crown Court accused of murdering the five-year-old and then playing a "cruel game" in an attempt to cover his tracks.

The court heard that there was a "sexual motive" to the murder and that investigators found numerous indecent images on the defendant's laptop, as well as pictures of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman from the Soham murder case.

Opening the case for the prosecution today, Elwen Evans QC, told the jury: "In addition to child pornography and photos of young girls, the defendant also had an interest in child murder and rape cases; for example, images of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman from the Soham case.

"Why will you need to consider this sort of material?

"You will have to decide whether pretty five-year-old April was abducted and murdered or run over by accident and killed, as the defendant says.

"We say his interest in pornography, young girls, rape and murder cases is all too relevant and you may see it as the key to understanding what he did and why he did what he did."

Mark Bridger arrives at Mold Crown Court, charged with abducting and murdering April Jones, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 30, 2013. See PA story COURTS April. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Mark Bridger arrives at Mold Crown Court, charged with abducting and murdering April Jones, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 30, 2013. See PA story COURTS April. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The court was told that Bridger was seen putting April in his Land Rover.

Miss Evans said that on the day she was abducted April was "happy and smiling" when she was seen getting into Bridger's car by her friend who also saw Bridger speaking to the child, the court heard.

She said: "He drove her away and that was the last that anyone, apart from the defendant, saw of April."

The court heard her disappearance sparked "the largest search in British history".

April vanished while playing on her bike near her home in Machynlleth, Mid Wales, on October 1 last year and her body has never been found.

Miss Evans said: "It's the defendant's case that he admits that he drove her away. He admits that April is dead. He accepts that he killed her or probably killed her.

"He accepts that he must have got rid of her body."

But Miss Evans said Bridger has not told police where the body is.

She said: "He says to us that he does not know, that he cannot remember.

"The prosecution case is this: that Mark Bridger abducted April. That he murdered her and that he went to enormous lengths to try to cover up what he had done.

"It's our case that the defendant's actions - abduction, murder, covering up what he has done - that his actions were sexually motivated."

Miss Evans added: "He has played, we say, a cruel game in pretending not to know what he has done to her.

"It's a game to try and save himself and try to manipulate his way out of his full responsibility in what he has done."

Bridger, wearing a light blue short-sleeved shirt and striped tie, sat staring ahead as he listened to the evidence.

A large snake tattoo could be seen on his left forearm and he wore headphones to help him hear the proceedings.

The disappearance of April, who had cerebral palsy, sparked a massive outpouring of support for her family, with hundreds of people joining the search.

Bridger, of Ceinws, denies abducting and murdering April, and unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.

Miss Evans, continuing her opening speech to the jury, said: "April's body is lost to us. We have had to look elsewhere for evidence of what this defendant did to her."

The jury was told it will hear eyewitness accounts and be told of phone, CCTV and DNA evidence from his house.

It would also hear about some of the defendant's "interests", based on analysis of his computer use, including child pornography, rape and murder.

Miss Evans said Bridger claims to police that he ran over April in his Land Rover, put her in his car and drove her around the village with her "dead or dying" in his car.

She went on: "Thereafter he doesn't know, he can't remember what he did to April.

"He can't remember because of a combination of drink, adrenaline and raw panic."

Miss Evans said analysis of Bridger's computer use showed "context and motive" for his behaviour towards April.

She said: "His computer, it shows this is a man who has a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases.

"I'm afraid we will have to view examples together, to give you a picture of what was on that computer.

"The images depict adults having sex with girls, some consensual, some non-consensual."

The jury heard some of the search terms found on Bridger's laptop included "Naked young five-year-old girls" and "nudism five-year-old" and "France: British schoolgirl raped and murdered".

Miss Evans said bone fragments consistent with being from a juvenile skull were found around the hearth at Bridger's home.

On the day April was abducted Bridger had viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting, Miss Evans said, the apparent rape of a physically restrained and visibly distressed girl.

The same day, a girlfriend had finished with the defendant and there was an exchange of final text messages.

"You will see the defendant unsuccessfully contact a number of women asking them to go out with him," Miss Evans added.

When police searched former abattoir slaughterman Bridger's house he had carried out an "extensive clean up" - but failed to get rid of all the evidence.

Traces of blood were found in the living room, hallway and bathroom - and it matched April's DNA.

There was a concentration of blood found around the wood burner in the living room, the jury heard.

Around the wood burner were a number of knives, including a boning knife, which was badly burnt.

Miss Evans told the court April was "of slight build", and that she lived with her mother Coral and father Paul.

The court heard April went to school near her home.

"She was in Year 1 at school and was doing well," Miss Evans said.

"She had a relatively mild form of cerebral palsy but that did not stop her from living a full and active life."

The court heard that on the day she disappeared, April had been to school, swimming at the local leisure centre and had also been playing on her bike with her "best friend".

Miss Evans said Bridger was of "big build".

The court heard he later told police when he was being interviewed that he was "over 6ft tall and was very strong".

The jury was shown a photo of the cottage where Bridger lived - and where April's blood and DNA were found.

"This is the house where the blood, the bone fragments were found. That cottage is three miles from Machynlleth, called Mount Pleasant, and situated very close above the river there," the prosecutor said.

Miss Evans continued: "The defendant appears to have spent a lot of time outdoors, participating in what he calls survival and bushcraft.

"He claimed to know the rugged terrain around Machynlleth well, and that's been a significant feature in police determining the size, scope and scale in their search for April.

"The defendant told people he had a career in the armed services, including serving in the SAS and had excelled during his military service.

"Military records have of course been checked," Miss Evans added.

"His account of any career in the army, in the forces, was a lie and a fantasy. He just never served in the Army."

In fact Bridger worked in an abattoir between 2009 and 2012 but more recently, at the time of April's disappearance, he was working at a local guest house.

Bridger wiped tears from his eyes and took deep breaths as the court was played a harrowing 999 call made by April's mother Coral Jones.

Mrs Jones could be heard saying: "Please...please my daughter has been kidnapped...my daughter."

The call was then taken over by a neighbour who said: "Apparently what happened...she has gone off in a car with somebody. Somebody has picked her up in a car or something. I have not seen anything, I have just been told."

The neighbour then tells the police operator that April was taken in a "big grey car that a man was driving".

She said April's mother, father and a neighbour were out looking for her.

The operator then asks to speak to Coral again and there is a series of long pauses in which people can be heard crying and hyperventilating in a state of distress.

As the call was played some members of the jury appeared physically upset by it.

Bridger shook his head, holding back tears.

He took a deep breath and wiped tears from his eyes.

Press Association

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