Tuesday 26 September 2017

April’s parents can plan daughter’s funeral after 11 months as inquest concludes

Paul and Coral Jones leaving Parish Council after attending an inquest into the death of their daughter April in Welshpool
Paul and Coral Jones leaving Parish Council after attending an inquest into the death of their daughter April in Welshpool
April Jones
Paul and Coral Jones leaving Parish Council after attending an inquest into the death of their daughter April in Welshpool
Paul and Coral Jones leaving Parish Council after attending an inquest into the death of their daughter April in Welshpool

Benjamin Wright

The parents of murdered April Jones can at last begin to plan their daughter's funeral after an inquest into her death was concluded.

The five-year-old schoolgirl was snatched outside her home in Machynlleth, mid Wales, last October before being murdered by Mark Bridger.

The 47-year-old paedophile refused to tell police what he had done with April's body - although officers did recover fragments of her skull from his fireplace.

The 17 tiny pieces of bone is all that her mother Coral and father Paul have left of their daughter.

They have said that not having her body or being able to properly lay her to rest has made their hell worse.

However, Powys Coroner Louise Hunt said she hoped the conclusion of April's inquest - which now paves the way for her funeral arrangements to begin - would be a small comfort to the Jones family.

She said: "I want to extend my sympathies for your terrible loss.

"There will be no further formal proceedings and I hope the coming to an end of them will give you time to allow you to deal with your grief."

Attending the 10-minute hearing in Powys County Council's Welshpool offices were Mr and Mrs Jones, who were flanked by family liaison officers from Dyfed Powys Police.

They listened earnestly as the force's Detective Superintendent Andy John read a brief outline of the circumstances surrounding April's death.

Mr John, who was the senior investigating officer in the case, said April's family reported she had been abducted at 7.20pm on October 1 last year - prompting a "significant police response".

He said: "This resulted in the arrest of Mark Leonard Bridger on October 2. Following subsequent inquiries, Bridger was charged with the murder of April, child abduction and perverting the course of justice.

"This resulted in a criminal trial taking place from April 29 to May 30."

Bridger was later convicted of all three counts and handed a whole-life prison term - meaning he will die behind bars.

MrJohn said that April's body had never been found, but she suffered a "violent death".

And on the "balance of probabilities", the youngster died at Bridger's remote home in Mount Pleasant, Ceinws, on the day she was abducted.

The inquest, which had been given special permission to proceed by the chief coroner in the absence of a body, was then opened and adjourned.

Although technically the file remains open, coroner Mrs Hunt said there would be no further proceedings.

Following the conclusion of today's hearing, a death certificate can be issued and her death can be officially registered - allowing her family to have an official funeral at last.

They have been denied that right until now after Bridger refused to say what he did with her body.

The one-time lifeguard, who was also caught downloading child porn on his computer, claimed he accidentally ran over April and in the ensuing panic could not remember what he did with her body.

April's mother Mrs Jones, 41, told the Sun newspaper last week: "Our hell this past year has been made worse because we did not have April's body."

Although no details were given of when or where April's funeral will take place, it is believed that mourners will be asked to wear pink, which was her favourite colour. It also became a symbol of hope in the wake of her disappearance, with scores of pink ribbons being put up by townsfolk.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn up to say their farewells to the little girl, with a possible venue being St Peter's Church in Machynlleth.

Local councillor Michael Williams said a funeral was the "right and proper" thing to happen.

"I don't think it will be a final goodbye but it will be another step in remembering all the wonderful times that the family had together," he said.

"It will bring people together again in one place to remember the life of a little child that was taken so savagely from the family and community."

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