THE former slaughterhouse worker accused of abducting and murdering schoolgirl April Jones in a "sexually motivated" attack today admitted to a jury that he lied about having a military past.
Mark Bridger, 47, of Ceinws, mid-Wales , denies abduction, murder and intending to pervert the course of justice by disposing of, concealing or destroying April's body.
Today Bridger took to the witness box and answered questions from his barrister, Brendan Kelly QC, about his history and about why he told the police he had been trained by the SAS and seconded to the British army.
Bridger's voice broke as he took the oath and he had a drink of water and appeared to compose himself before entering his testimony.
Mr Kelly asked him: "You were asked a number of questions about your military experience. Have you ever been employed by the military?"
Bridger, wearing a light blue short-sleeved shirt with a clearly visible snake tattoo on his left forearm, said: "No, I have not."
"Have you in the past told people that you have been employed by the military?" Mr Kelly asked.
He said: "Yes I have."
When Mr Kelly asked why he had told people that lie, Bridger responded: "When I moved close to the Machynlleth area everyone seemed to want to know who I was, where I was from, my past, my present.
"So I had always been interested in the military. I just said I am ex military and people just took that as what I did.
"I didn't want them to know I had had problems with my past. That stuck with me for...until now."
Bridger told Mold Crown Court that he was born on November 6, 1965 in Surrey and had served as an engineering apprentice after failing to complete an engineering diploma at Croydon College.
After working as a welder for some time he began work as a firefighter at the London Fire Brigade.
But he told the court he had to quit after six months when he was 19 or 20 when his girlfriend got pregnant.
He said: "I had personal problems. I had split up with my partner at the time. We had just had a baby."
He said he left the area and moved to Wales when he fell out with his parents over the baby as there were "complications" with them seeing the child.
"In a short while I had major arguments with the family and lost contact," he told the jury.
He said when he moved to Wales he had nothing and was at first living in a tent on the beach when he was about 21 or 22 before he got a job.
April's disappearance, on October 1 last year, sparked the biggest search operation in British policing history. Her body has never been found.
The prosecution say Bridger snatched and murdered April in a "sexually motivated" attack.
Bridger says he accidentally killed April when he ran her over and accepts that he must have got rid of her body.
But he says he cannot remember how he disposed of the body because he was suffering memory loss caused by alcohol and panic.
Earlier the trial heard Bridger had viewed images of child pornography on his laptop on the day April went missing and that forensic investigators discovered traces of April's blood in Bridger's living room, hall and bathroom.
The jury was taken through Bridger's past criminal convictions.
He had always pleaded guilty in court in the past and had no convictions for sexual offences or child porn.
The first, when he was 19, was at the Old Bailey, for which he received two years probation.
Bridger pleaded guilty to the attempted taking of a car, possession of a firearm, having an imitation firearm, theft and two counts of obtaining property by deception.
He said the charges arose when he was going to private land owned by a friend to fire some blanks and it was 15 miles away, so he tried to open a car door to take it and was spotted, stopped and police called. He also wrote cheques from a stolen chequebook, he said.
He told the jury he had no intention of robbing a post office, as the prosecution at the time claimed.
In January 1991 he pleaded guilty at Aberystwth Magistrates' Court to criminal damage, affray and having no insurance, arising out of a "road rage" incident when he hit the bonnet of another driver's car with his hand.
The following year he was convicted for more motoring matters, driving while disqualified and without insurance.
Mr Kelly then took Bridger through details of his personal life beginning with a three or four year relationship with a woman called Keely Reynolds, with whom he had a son.
He was working at a timeshare estate as a barman, chef and waiter, before meeting a new partner.
"I met a young lady I was working with and within three months we were married," Bridger told the jury.
The woman was Julie Wiliams and they lived in mid Wales and also in Wrexham and Chirk.
Bridger had two sons from that relationship, now aged 21 and 23, and is still in contact with one of them, he said.
Bridger then broke up with Ms Williams but stayed in the Machynlleth area, working as a car recovery mechanic and in a forestry job and began a relationship with a woman called Vanessa Brooks.
That lasted for two or three years but there were no children until Bridger met Elaine Griffiths in 1996.
"It was a group of lads, we all hung about together, we all got on and would meet up with groups of girls from different villages and go out dancing," Bridger said.
Elaine had a sister, Karen, who at that time was in a relationship with a man he knew as Paul - the father of April Jones.
"It was through Elaine and Karen I met Paul," Bridger said.
The relationship with Elaine Griffiths lasted eight years until 2003, and they had two children.
ridger, who has a total of six children by four different women, told the court that he had been drinking "excessively" since around 2010 and that he would turn to drink after "any relationship break-up".
He said he had never been to Alcoholics Anonymous but that he had spoken to his doctor about it and admitted that "sadly" he was happy to drive while under the influence.
He said that he had also been taking anti-depressants for the last 12 years.
Bridger said he suffered from anxiety and panic attacks.
Asked if the alcohol affected his memory, he said: "Most certainly. When I was drunk I had problems remembering dates and times."
The court heard that Bridger had once briefly run his own business fitting alarms and CCTV cameras in places like leisure centres.
He also said he had worked as an outdoor activities instructor at a local Machynlleth school which has now closed down, before working as a lifeguard in the local leisure centre for one "season" in 1991/92.
He then moved on to working in an abattoir but said he "had nothing to do with any knives", saying his job was to "assess the meat". He also worked as an animal welfare officer, the court heard.
Mr Kelly asked him about his Land Rover and Bridger said children would need "assistance" getting into the car.
When Mr Kelly asked the defendant about the indecent images on his laptop, Bridger told the court he had written letters to the companies publishing them on the internet to complain.
Asked about the indecent cartoon images which show child sexual abuse, Bridger said: "I actually came across that accidentally while looking up some cartoon thing for my daughter...she was into Spongebob Squarepants. I came across this. That's why I was concerned."
He said he did not inform the police because he thought he had to "take the first step" and complain.
Bridger then told the court the only reason he had a folder on his laptop containing photographs of local young girls was for his own children.
Mr Kelly asked: "Were any of these photographs kept for your own sexual gratification?"
Bridger responded: "No."
"Have you ever had a sexual interest in young children?" Mr Kelly asked.
The defendant replied: "No."
The defendant was asked about his Facebook usage and he said his own account was on the "top security" setting.
He said the pictures of young girls, including April's older half-sisters, he had taken from Facebook and put in a file for his children "at their request".
He said his ex-girlfriend Vicky Fenner had asked him to "delete" certain people, including April's mother Coral Jones, but that at some point Coral got in touch with him with a friend request.
He said when he accepted the request he looked through Coral's pictures to see who her family were and noticed a picture of April's 16-year-old half sister, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Bridger said: "She had had some modelling pictures done and she is a very pretty girl."
"Every time she had modelling pictures done her mum was so proud that she put them on Facebook."
Some of the family pictures Bridger saved to the folder included images of April.
He said: "In amongst those pictures were pictures of April which I didn't know at the time."
Bridger's evidence then moved to the last days before April's disappearance.
On Saturday September 29 he picked up two of his children and took them for a walk in the hills before returning home where he cooked them a chicken for their evening meal.
Bridger told the court he cooked the food in a pot and a wok inside the log wood burner, something he did regularly.
He said anything left over "gets thrown in the fire".
The prosecution claim bone fragments later found in the wood burner were those of April - a claim disputed by the defence.
The following day he had arranged to meet Vicky Fenner though their relationship had broken down.
Bridger said there were lots of "niggling" reasons behind it over moving into his house.