| 7.1°C Dublin

Last pictures of April as mum recalls terror of being told she's missing

These are the last CCTV images of a playful April Jones, captured in a local leisure centre just hours before her disappearance.

The footage was shown to a jury at the murder trial of Mark Bridger, who is accused of abducting and killing the five-year-old schoolgirl in Wales.

Among a series of clips shown to the jury, which tracked the movements of Bridger, were two video images taken from the local leisure centre where April went for a swimming lesson earlier on the day she went missing.

The first, taken at 4.50pm, showed April, dressed in a white school polo shirt and black trousers, running into the foyer and playing with a friend, who appears to be jumping on and off a set of weighing scales.

April then appears to enter the centre's cafe for a few moments before then running off towards the changing rooms.

The five-year-old, who has been described in court as "slight", can be seen leaning hard on the heavy door as she tried to open it.

More footage, taken at 5.39pm, shows her leaving the changing room with her older half-sister.

Again she appeared active and happy as she played with her half-sister in the foyer before going back into the cafe and then leaving the centre at 5.40pm.

Bridger, wearing glasses, sat upright in the dock with his head turned towards his own television screen.

The court has heard that April went missing some time after 7pm. The next day a helicopter looking for the missing girl zoomed in on Bridger who was seen walking his dog outside his cottage.

Skull

The jury was asked to note that there was smoke coming from the chimney of his house. Earlier the court heard how bone fragments, thought to be from a "juvenile skull", were found in his woodburner.

The court also heard of the frantic moments when April's parents learned that their five-year-old daughter was missing.

After April was collected from school on October 1 last, she was taken by her mother for a swimming lesson before they returned home for a tea of spaghetti on toast.

After she had watched her favourite Disney film, April asked to go out and play on her bike with a friend, her mother said.

Mrs Jones (43) said: "Paul and I said no, she wanted to take her bike to her friend's next door.

"She kept on and on and had a little tantrum and I eventually gave in so she went next door to play. I told her I didn't want her out for long. I think it was about 7pm and that was the last time I saw her."

Twenty minutes later, Mrs Jones sent April's older brother out to collect his sister as "it was getting dark and a little colder".

"Within a very short time he came running home and he was in a hysterical state. When I calmed him down he said that April's friend had seen her getting into a car with a man and that she had gone.

"I immediately went over and asked April's friend what she had seen.

"I was told that April had got into a car with a man and he had driven off."

Mrs Jones called the police straight away. "I was so upset I do not remember much of what was said," she added.

"I think I spoke to the police for a little while then gave the phone to my friend. I went out and searched around the estate, everywhere I could think of. I even looked in the bins.

"I asked a friend to drive me around in my car. I was frantic, trying to find her. The police turned up very quickly and then I was answering questions about her."

Bridger, of Ceinws, mid-Wales, denies abduction, murder and intending to pervert the course of justice by disposing of, concealing or destroying April's body.

The prosecution says he snatched and murdered April near her home in Machynlleth, in a "sexually motivated" attack. Bridger, who wiped tears from his eyes throughout the reading of the statements, says he accidentally killed April when he ran her over and does not remember what he did with her body.

Mrs Jones, who made her statement on October 8, said April was "aware of strangers" and knew not to go off with anybody she did not know.

Crying

"I can't understand why she would go into someone's car that she doesn't know," she added.

In his statement, made on the same day, the girl's father, Paul Jones (41), said April had had a tantrum when she wanted to play outside.

"I suppose we just gave in and she was told she could only go out for a short while," he added. "She is quite stubborn when she gets something in her mind.

"What happened after that is all a little blurry, if I'm honest. At about 7.20pm Coral sent April's brother out to fetch her. He came back and he was very upset – he was crying and he said that someone had taken April and that she had got into someone's car.

"We rang the police and Coral went out to search. I felt so helpless. I went to speak to April's friend. who said something about a van."

Mr Jones said he had known Bridger since about 1992 when the defendant was dating the sister of his then girlfriend.

"(Bridger) was around 32 and she was about 15, so I remember thinking that she was a little young for him – he was twice her age," he said.

"He seemed a pleasant bloke and was always a good talker."

Mrs Jones said she may have known Bridger some years earlier, when she had played darts at a local pub.

She said Bridger made contact with her elder daughter, then aged around 14, on Facebook about two years ago.

In the message he told the girl: "I used to know your mother through playing darts." The trial continues.

hnews@herald.ie


Privacy