Former slaughterhouse worker Mark Bridger, who abducted and murdered schoolgirl April Jones before disposing of her remains, was given a life sentence at Mold Crown Court today.
Earlier today he was found guilty of her abduction and murder. April (5) was last seen playing on her bike near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, on October 1st last year and her body has never been found.
Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: “There is no doubt in my mind that you are a paedophile, who has for some time harboured sexual and morbid fantasies about young girls.”
Today at Mold Magistrates Court, the jury of nine women and three men convicted Bridger (47), of Ceinws, of abducting and murdering April. He was also found guilty of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.
The disappearance of April, who had cerebral palsy, sparked a massive outpouring of support for her family, with hundreds of people joining in the search.
The jury returned the unanimous verdicts following four hours and six minutes of deliberations. From the dock,
Bridger, wearing a blue shirt and spotted tie, closed his eyes and appeared to hold back tears as the guilty verdicts were read.
April’s parents Paul and Coral, who have attended every day of the month-long trial, were following the verdicts from the public gallery, on a balcony overlooking the court room.
Mrs Jones appeared to wipe away tears as the verdicts were announced. The verdicts were greeted with complete silence from the public gallery.
The trial, which began on April 30th, heard that Bridger was a “fantasist” who had “a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases”.
Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, said Bridger murdered April and then played a “cruel game” in an attempt to cover his tracks. She told the jury: “He claimed to know the rugged terrain around Machynlleth well, and that’s been a significant feature in police determining the size, scope and scale in their search for April.”
Miss Evans also told the jury of obscene material which had been found on Bridger’s laptop following his arrest. Police found numerous indecent images on the computer, as well as pictures of young female murder victims, including Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the victims of Soham killer Ian Huntley.
Bridger also had images of local young Machynlleth girls, including April and her half-sisters, aged 13 and 16.
It is not known what Bridger said to April to entice her into his car. The court heard she was “happy and smiling” when she was seen climbing into a Land Rover Discovery.
Miss Evans told the jury Bridger’s claim that April died in a car accident was lie to cover up his “sexual” motivation for snatching the five-year-old. Early in the trial, the jury was taken to visit Bridger’s cottage, Mount Pleasant, where April’s blood and small bone fragments were found.
Those microscopic pieces of April’s skull were all that was found, despite the largest search in British policing history and a police investigation which cost in the region of £8.5 million.
In a statement, Ed Beltrami, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wales, said: “We welcome today’s verdict, which brings to a close a difficult and challenging prosecution. “Ever since his first interview with police in October last year, Mark Bridger has relentlessly spun a web of lies and half-truths to try and distance himself from the truly horrific nature of the crime he perpetrated.”