April Jones Case: Mark Bridger Was 'Sexually Motivated', Court Hears

April Jones Murder 'Sexually Motivated', Court Hears

The man accused of murdering schoolgirl April Jones was a "fantasist" who had "a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases", a court heard today.

Mark Bridger, 47, who claimed to have served in the SAS but was in fact an abattoir worker, murdered the five-year-old and played a "cruel game" in an attempt to cover his tracks, Mold Crown Court heard.

Missing five-year old schoolgirl April Jones

April vanished while playing on her bike near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, on October 1 last year and her body has never been found.

The court heard that investigators found numerous indecent images on the defendant's laptop, as well as pictures of young girls who had been murdered.

Bridger also had images of April and her half-sisters, aged 13 and 16, as well as those of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman from the Soham murder case, the jury heard.

On the first day of his trial, the court heard that Bridger had "a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases".

The jury was also told Bridger accepts that he "probably killed" April in a car accident, but that he "blanked out" afterwards and cannot remember what he did with her body.

Bridger wept in court as a harrowing 999 call was played to the jury in which April's mother Coral can be heard pleading with the police for help.

The jury was shown a photo of the cottage where Bridger lived - and where April's blood and DNA were found.

Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "This is the house where the blood, the bone fragments were found. That cottage is three miles from Machynlleth, called Mount Pleasant, and situated very close above the river there."

Miss Evans continued: "The defendant appears to have spent a lot of time outdoors, participating in what he calls survival and bushcraft.

"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.

"The defendant told people he had a career in the armed services, including serving in the SAS and had excelled during his military service.

"Military records have of course been checked. His account of any career in the Army, in the forces, was a lie and a fantasy. He just never served in the Army."

In fact Bridger worked in an abattoir between 2009 and 2012 but more recently, at the time of April's disappearance, he was working at a local guest house.

Earlier, Miss Evans told the jury about the kind of obscene material which had been found on Bridger's laptop following his arrest.

She said: "In addition to child pornography and photos of young girls, the defendant also had an interest in child murder and rape cases; for example, images of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman from the Soham case.

Mark Bridger arrives at Mold Crown Court at the start of the trial

"Why will you need to consider this sort of material?

"You will have to decide whether pretty five-year-old April was abducted and murdered or run over by accident and killed, as the defendant says.

"We say his interest in pornography, young girls, rape and murder cases is all too relevant and you may see it as the key to understanding what he did and why he did what he did."

The court was told that Bridger was seen putting April in his Land Rover.

Miss Evans said that on the day she was abducted, April was "happy and smiling" when she was seen getting into Bridger's car by an eyewitness who also saw Bridger speaking to the child.

She said: "He drove her away and that was the last that anyone, apart from the defendant, saw of April."

The court heard her disappearance sparked "the largest search in British history".

Miss Evans said: "It's the defendant's case that he admits that he drove her away. He admits that April is dead. He accepts that he killed her or probably killed her.

"He accepts that he must have got rid of her body."

But Miss Evans said Bridger has not told police where the body is, adding that he "cannot remember".

"The prosecution case is this: that Mark Bridger abducted April. That he murdered her and that he went to enormous lengths to try to cover up what he had done," Miss Evans said.

April Jones's disappearance sparked a huge police search operation

"It's our case that the defendant's actions - abduction, murder, covering up what he has done - that his actions were sexually motivated."

Miss Evans added: "He has played, we say, a cruel game in pretending not to know what he has done to her.

"It's a game to try and save himself and try to manipulate his way out of his full responsibility in what he has done."

Bridger, wearing a light blue, short-sleeved shirt and striped tie, sat staring ahead as he listened to the evidence.

A large snake tattoo could be seen on his left forearm and he wore headphones to help him hear the proceedings.

At times he appeared to be struggling with his emotions and had to wipe away tears with a tissue.

The disappearance of April, who had cerebral palsy, sparked a massive outpouring of support for her family, with hundreds of people joining the search.

Bridger, of Ceinws, denies abducting and murdering April, and unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.

Miss Evans said Bridger told police he ran over April in his Land Rover, put her in his car and drove her around the village while she was "dead or dying".

She went on: "Thereafter he doesn't know, he can't remember what he did to April.

"He can't remember because of a combination of drink, adrenaline and raw panic."

The jury heard some of the search terms found on Bridger's laptop included "Naked young five-year-old girls", "nudism five-year-old" and "France: British schoolgirl raped and murdered".

On the day April was abducted, Bridger had viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting, Miss Evans said, the apparent rape of a physically restrained and visibly distressed girl.

The same day, a girlfriend had finished with the defendant and there was an exchange of final text messages.

"You will see the defendant unsuccessfully contact a number of women asking them to go out with him," Miss Evans added.

When police searched Bridger's house, he had carried out an "extensive clean up" - but failed to get rid of all the evidence, she said.

Traces of blood were found in the living room, hallway and bathroom - and it matched April's DNA, the court heard.

There was a concentration of blood found around the wood burner in the living room, the jury heard.

Around the wood burner were a number of knives, including a boning knife, which was badly burnt.

Miss Evans said bone fragments consistent with being from a juvenile skull were found around the hearth at Bridger's home.

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