Monday 14 October 2019

April Jones trial: I was an emotional wreck, says accused Mark Bridger

Mark Bridger denies murdering five-year-old April Jones
Mark Bridger denies murdering five-year-old April Jones

THE man accused of murdering April Jones was an "emotional wreck" when he was arrested on suspicion of her abduction, a police officer told a jury today.

Mark Bridger allegedly told Pc Philip Saunders: "I know what this is all about," before "confessing" to killing the five-year-old in a car accident, Mold Crown Court was told.

In a conversation with police officers as he was taken to be interviewed, Bridger, 47, allegedly said he "crushed" April with his 4x4 and "there was no life in her, no pulse, no breathing, no response in her eyes".

The defendant wept throughout the evidence and, according to witnesses in the public gallery, April's mother Coral left the court room in tears.

Former slaughterhouse worker Bridger denies abducting and murdering April as she played near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, on the evening of October 1 last year.

Giving evidence to the jury today, Pc Saunders read from the notes he made after he detained Bridger as he walked along the A487 at 3.30pm on the next day.

He said: "I was travelling down the A487 with my sergeant who instructed me that if we saw Mark Bridger, he was to be arrested on suspicion of the abduction of April Jones.

"At approximately 3.30pm, I saw a male who matched his description.

"I stopped the car and asked him what his name was. He confirmed to me he was Mark Bridger and at that point I arrested him on suspicion of abduction and cautioned him."

The officer said Bridger replied: "I know what this is all about."

He said the defendant went on: "It was an accident, I crushed her with the car.

"I don't know where she is.

"As I was going to drive away two girls on a bike came across me, I then got out and saw one girl lying under the car.

"I don't know where is. I picked her up and put her in my car, which is left hand drive, and put her on the front seat."

Pc Saunders said Bridger then told him "he needed to talk".

The officer said: "I interrupted Bridger and said he would be able to speak when we got to the police station at Aberystwyth, where he would be questioned."

But in the car, Bridger continued to talk, he said.

Reading again from his notes, Pc Saunders told the jury Bridger said: "I've been looking for her all night and today on foot because my car is in the garage.

"My car is in Rob's garage, this is in Machynlleth. It's a Land Rover Discovery. I didn't abduct her.

"I did my best to revive her. I panicked. The more I drove through the night, the more I got pissed.

"My son and daughter play at their house. I didn't even know until this morning who it was until I saw the TV.

"I just wish I knew what I've done with her, where I put her. I need to say sorry to the family.

"I can't believe I didn't just call an ambulance or the police.

"My intention was to head towards the hospital.

"There was no life in her, no pulse, no breathing, no response in her eyes.

"She was just on the seat.

"I tried to revive her using mouth and nose. When my hand went on her chest I knew there was a lot more to it.

"I did my best to revive her.

"I don't remember having her in the car when I went back.

"I looked in all my rooms in my house. I wouldn't have dumped her, she's a human being.

"I wouldn't have done that.

"The only place I haven't checked is down by my house. It's CJ Law yard. Caravans in there.

"I really don't know where she is.

"I just want to know what I've done.

"I had my daughter's school meeting last night at 5pm. I don't remember seeing girls play. I remember looking through my rear view window. I saw a girl with dark hair. I then felt the car rise up and down.

"My car was making a hell of a noise. When I looked there was a girl under the car.

"She had gone a funny colour, she was only a little thing.

"I remember being by the clock by Rob's garage. I went numb, I don't know what I was doing."

Pc Saunders said: "From the point of arrest, he was very emotional, crying.

"He seemed to be, what I would call, an emotional wreck."

The prosecution claims Bridger snatched and murdered April, who had cerebral palsy, in a sexually motivated attack.

Her body was never found despite the largest search operation ever staged by British police.

Earlier the jury heard evidence from one of the first police officers to arrive at Bridger's home, Mount Pleasant in the hamlet of Ceinws, near Machynlleth.

Detective constable Sarah Totterdale said she and two colleagues were told to attend the address to search for April and arrest the defendant.

She said she arrived at the isolated cottage shortly after 3pm.

After trying the back door of the property and finding it locked and secured, the officers forced entry through the front door.

She said: "I walked into the porch area and into the living room and saw a log burner, glowing orange colour and the heat was noticeable.

"There was no sign of anybody at the address other than myself and my colleagues."

Walking upstairs she described the main bedroom as "very untidy", with a mattress and clothes and a duvet sitting on the floor.

She said she looked under the duvet and a colleague suggested she call out April's name.

"If April was hiding she may respond to a female voice," the officer said.

"I continued to call out April, April, April, but there was no response."

In the bathroom, she said she noticed a strong smell of washing powder. She could also smell Deep Heat and saw a bottle of the muscle treatment nearby.

Asked further about the smells, she said: "I can only describe it as washing powder and a chemical you would use to clean the floor.

"It was uncomfortably hot, I was perspiring and I only had a thin rain coat on.

"Whether the heat was making the smell stronger, I can't say."

Earlier, Sophy Zlajic, an office clerk at Dyfi Autocraft in Machynlleth, told the jury that Bridger seemed "upset and teary-eyed" when he discussed April's disappearance with her on the morning of October 2.

He had taken his 4x4 into the garage at 9.30am, she said in a statement read to the court by Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting.

Ms Zlajic said she recognised Bridger and his car as he had taken it to the garage two weeks earlier for an MoT.

"The car was making a grinding noise and I thought to myself that it didn't sound good," Ms Zlajic said.

After Bridger got out of his vehicle, she said he told her: "I've just heard. I haven't got a TV or radio up there."

She said: "I believed he was talking about the missing girl.

"He looked very upset and was teary-eyed when he said it.

"But he didn't mention April by name."

She added that Bridger also commented that it was "not the best time" for his car to break down as "he could use it to help".

The witness said: "I took it to mean the search for April.

"Again, he looked upset when he said this.

"As a community, we were all upset but he appeared visibly upset, on the verge of crying.

"He also said something like' My children used to play with her'."

John Rowlands, a mechanic at the same garage, said in his statement that Bridger "appeared nervous and edgy".

"He kept looking around him and seemed on edge.

"I thought nothing of it at the time."

The trial was adjourned until 10.30am on Monday.

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