MARK Bridger fought back tears as he made his first appearance in court charged with the murder of the missing five-year-old, April Jones.
Mr Bridger (46) gazed at the ceiling and bit his lip as a court clerk detailed the charges, which also include child abduction and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Asked if he understood the allegations, his voice cracked and rose in pitch as he replied "Yes" to each one.
Following the court appearance, police admitted that they may never find April's body. Supt Ian John, who has headed the investigation from the outset, said: "We have to prepare for the time when we accept that we might never find April.
"But we are optimistic that the work we are doing is going to give us the best possible chance. If we have to face that consequence, then we will do so and we will share that with the family and the wider community of Machynlleth."
Mr Bridger, unshaven and dressed in a navy blue jumper and black trousers, appeared dishevelled as he stood with his hands behind his back for the four-minute hearing at Aberystwyth magistrates' court.
The former abattoir worker was subjected to a volley of abuse as he was driven to the court building, where around 50 people yelled "scum", kicked the prison van and threw bottles.
Among those gathered in the rain was Mair Raftree, April's godmother, who sobbed as the van arrived. April's parents, Paul (43) and Coral (40), were too distraught to attend the hearing. A custody officer removed Mr Bridger's handcuffs before he was led into the glass-panelled dock.
He briefly glanced around the court before focusing on the court clerk, who asked: "Are you Mark Leonard Bridger?"
He replied: "That is correct."
She then read out his address and date of birth, to which he replied each time: "That is correct." As the court clerk began reading out the murder charge, Mr Bridger shook his head and stared at the ceiling, his eyes filling with tears. The case was referred to Caernarfon Crown Court, where Mr Bridger will appear via videolink tomorrow.
Mr Bridger, a former friend of the Jones family, was driven to Manchester, where he is being held in custody.
As the prison van eventually edged out of the courthouse, police were forced to push back a crowd of people who yelled obscenities and punched and kicked the vehicle.
Supt John later returned to Machynlleth, the Jones's home town in mid Wales. He added: "We are constantly reviewing the search operation but I must stress, we are totally committed to finding April and we have the support of police forces across the country." (© Daily Telegraph, London)