Saturday 16 November 2019

April Jones: Police search quarry in hunt for girl

A photograph of missing five-year-old April Jones adorns a door as police continue their search
The search for April Jones continues

POLICE searching for missing five-year-old April Jones today broke up a dilapidated caravan and searched a quarry near to where she vanished.

A dilapidated caravan near to where April Jones went missing was being searched by police today as the hunt continued for the missing five year old.

The roof had come off the caravan in the tiny village of Ceinws, just outside April's home town of Machynlleth in Mid Wales.

Officers were breaking up debris around the vehicle and also moving large bricks beside it.

Forensic tents have also been erected in the garden of that house.

It came as intensive searches around the village continued, with apparently more personnel involved than on previous days.

Officers, including some wearing British Transport Police uniforms, gathered in the centre of Ceinws before fanning out in large teams, equipped with large wooden sticks and rakes.

Earlier, a quarry near the village was searched by divers. Yesterday, an isolated caravan just outside Ceinws was also sealed off.

Today it emerged that Mark Bridger, the suspect accused of murdering April Jones is related to her family.

Bridger, 46, is the uncle of the little girl’s two half sisters.

Detectives looking at the complex relationships of Mr Bridger’s past, discovered that he had fathered two children with a woman called Elaine Griffiths. Mr Bridger and Elaine had Connor and Sophie in the 1990s.

Around the same time, Elaine’s sister Karen had two daughters - Hazel and Abby - with April’s father Paul Jones. He subsequently married April’s mother, Coral.

The connection means that Mr Bridger’s children are cousins to April’s half sisters.

Abby, Hazel, Connor and Sophie all took part in the search for the little girl who went missing last Monday evening from close to her home in Machynlleth, Mid Wales.

Hazel and Abby wrote on Facebook about their “little sister” and also released a pink balloon in hope for her safe return.

Their mother Karen said: "The past week has been very hard and the community support for the family has been overwhelming.

“We are trying to focus all our energy on finding little April and staying strong for all the family members involved.”

Meanwhile it has emerged that children as young as seven will provide key evidence in the trial of Mr Bridger which is expected to take part next year.

The young witnesses, who have already provided video interviews about what they saw, are expected to provide further evidence via video link at the full hearing.

Mr Bridger, a former lifeguard and abattoir worker, has been charged with April’s murder as well as child abduction and unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.

He was arrested a day after April’s disappearance and appeared yesterday morning via prison video link at Caernarfon Crown Court, 60 miles from the little girl’s family home.

April was playing with friends when she disappeared and no sign of her has been seen since.

Police have said they are continuing an intensive search for her.

Mr Bridger, who was unshaven and wearing glasses and a dark top, spoke to acknowledge the proceedings and confirm his name during the 20-minute hearing.

He was remanded in custody to appear at a plea and case management hearing on January 11 at the same court ahead of a trial later in the year.

It will be overseen by Mr Justice Griffith Williams, a High Court judge who has previously presided over high profile cases such as that of Barry George, who was acquitted of the murder of presenter Jill Dando.

The judge said that April’s family would be concerned “that the matter be brought speedily to trial” and asked for their input about where the trial should be held to cause them the least possible inconvenience.

He added: “Another consideration from my reading of the papers is that there will be some young witnesses who have been video interviewed. One of them I think is seven years old.

“The longer the delay in bringing the case to trial, the more difficult it is for witnesses of that age.”

Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, said the search for April was “still ongoing”, which would also have an impact on the legal timetable.

She added that “forensic, scientific and other expert investigations continue apace” while the judge commented that “matters may develop”.

He added that there were a “sufficient number of uncertainties to make it impossible” to give a likely trial date but he added: “It should be understood that it will be tried on the earliest possible date in the New Year.”

Details of what Mr Bridger has told police were not given in court but the judge said: “The Crown have notice of the likely defence in his account in interviews.”

The judge said he felt the trial should be held in Caernarfon or at Mold Crown Court in North Wales.

He said: “Any decisions as to the court of trial will be made once I know what the views of the family and the witnesses are.”

The judge said the youngest witnesses would give evidence via video link, probably from Aberystwyth, which is closer to Machynlleth than the trial venue.

At the end of the hearing, Mr Bridger, who is being held in Manchester, nodded and said “yes sir” after being told by the judge that he would remain in custody.

A pink ribbon, which has symbolised the hopes of those searching for April, was tied to railings at the front of the court.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas and Martin Evans

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