Thursday 18 January 2018

April accused weeps as he faces court on murder charge

A police officer holds back a member of the public as a prison van transports Mark Bridger from Aberystwyth Magistrates Court in Mid Wales
A police officer holds back a member of the public as a prison van transports Mark Bridger from Aberystwyth Magistrates Court in Mid Wales
The prison van carrying Mark Bridger
April Jones
Chief suspect Mark Bridger
A mother holds her little one as hundreds pay their respects at an emotional service for missing April Jones
Dyfed-Powys Police undated handout photo of the Land Rover belonging to 46-year-old Mark Bridger

Antony Stone

MARK BRIDGER wept as he appeared in court today accused of the abduction and murder of five-year-old April Jones.

The former lifeguard, 46, stood in the dock of Aberystwyth Magistrates' Court in Wales as the charges were put to him.



As well as abducting and murdering April, Bridger is charged with the unlawful disposal and concealment of her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.



Bridger cried to himself as he spoke to confirm his name, age and address.



He also confirmed he understood the charges.



Bridger appeared on the verge of tears throughout the hearing, which lasted around four minutes.



He was remanded in custody and will next appear at Caernarfon Crown Court on Wednesday.



April, who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs daily medication, was last seen near her home on the Bryn-y-Gog estate in Machynlleth on Monday evening.



Bridger was arrested the following day.



There were angry scenes outside the court as the van carrying Bridger arrived for today's hearing.



The court clerk read out each charge individually, asking Bridger if he understood.



When the murder charge was read out he answered "yes" with a tremor in his voice and tears in his eyes.



He answered "yes" twice more to confirm he had understood each charge.



When his name was read out, he said: "That is correct."



He answered "correct" to confirm that his date of birth was November 6, 1965, and said the same for his Mount Pleasant farmhouse address at the village Ceinws.



Bridger was brought into court wearing a blue jumper. His faced looked red and flushed and he was unshaven.



He gazed down at the floor inside the dock area of the court, enclosed in protective glass. He did not make eye contact with anyone.



His eyes were tearful before he answered any questions and he appeared to be struggling to hold back his weeping.



At the end of the hearing, Betty Griffiths, the chairman of magistrates, told Bridger he would be remanded in custody and would next appear at Caernarfon Crown Court on Wednesday.



John Hedgecoe was defending Bridger. Iwan Jenkins, district crown prosecutor, was prosecuting. Neither were called on to speak during the brief hearing.



Also sitting at the rear of the court was Superintendent Ian John, who has led the search for April.



Afterwards he returned to Machynlleth to continue co-ordinating the on-going operation to find the body of April.



A witness saw the schoolgirl step into what is believed to have been a Land Rover Discovery last Monday evening.



Her parents Coral Jones, 40, and husband Paul, 44, allowed her to play out late as a treat after she received a glowing school report that day at a parents' evening which Bridger also attended.



Bridger, who owns a Discovery, was arrested the following day and charged on Saturday after four days of questioning.



Mrs Jones issued a new appeal to continue efforts to find her daughter today.



In a message posted on Facebook, she said: "April has still not been found, I am not giving up hope that she will come home, so please keep looking for my baby girl April.



"She's our world, the whole family are in bits as we don't know where she is."



More than 700 people packed into Machynlleth's St Peter's Church yesterday to attend an emotional service for the schoolgirl.



Reverend Kathleen Rogers led the moving sermon, in which she said: "The realisation is coming on since yesterday when we heard murder - that has hit home."



Reverend Rogers said prayers for April's parents and paid tribute to the community who had pulled together to help in the search.



She read a touching poem on behalf of April's mother called "Mum" as the Bishop of Bangor, Reverend Andy John, said the tight-knit community had "touched the heart of people around the world".



He revealed that emails had been received from as far afield as South Africa and New Zealand - with a church in Texas even making a donation.



Mountain rescue teams were stood down last night as the search operation switched emphasis.



Meanwhile the hunt goes on, with investigating officers revealing police numbers on the ground were doubled this morning.



Night time search efforts have been suspended, with the shift in manpower being described as a change of "resources rather intensity".



Superintendent John paid tribute to mountain rescue volunteers "who have worked themselves to a standstill in the search for April".



He added: "We are upping our numbers to 18 teams which will be over 100 officers."



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