A FORMER slaughterhouse worker described as a “pathological and glib liar” was yesterday ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison for the abduction and murder of April Jones.
Mark Bridger became only the 48th person to be given a whole life sentence by a judge in the UK, after a jury returned a unanimous verdict on his role in a crime which shocked the nation and sparked a multi-
Sentencing the 47-year-old, Mr Justice Griffith Williams told him he was a paedophile who has harboured “sexual and morbid fantasies about young girls”.
The mother of April, who was five when she vanished while playing on her bike near her home in Machynlleth, Powys, in Wales, said yesterday she would “live with the guilt” of letting her daughter out to play “for the rest of my life”.
“She fought to come into the world, she fought to stay in this world and he has taken her not only from us but from everyone who loved her,” Coral Jones said in a victim-impact statement read out in court.
Bridger was convicted by a jury at Mold Crown Court of April’s abduction and murder and of perverting the course of justice by unlawfully disposing, destroying or concealing her body. He stood impassively as sentence was handed down but shook his head when the judge addressed his perverted interest in violent child abuse.
The judge 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”.
The judge said Bridger had stored on his laptop “not only images of pre-pubescent and
pubescent girls, but foul pornography of the gross sexual abuse of young children.
“What prompted you on Monday 1 October to live out one of those fantasies is a matter for speculation, but it may have been a combination of the ending of one sexual relationship and your drinking.
“Whatever, you set out to find a little girl to abuse. I am not sure you targeted April specifically – it was probably fortuitous that she can be seen on some of the images which you stored on your laptop of her older sister – but you were on the prowl for a young girl.”
In being handed down a whole life sentence, Bridger joined a list of notorious criminals which includes Moors Murderer Ian Brady and murderer and robber Donald Neilson.
April, who had cerebral palsy, was last seen alive in her housing estate on 1 October last year. Despite the most extensive police search in British history, her body has never been found.
The jury of nine women and three men convicted Bridger, of Ceinws, with unanimous verdicts following four hours and six minutes of deliberations. From the dock, Bridger closed his eyes and appeared to hold back tears as the guilty verdicts were read.
April’s parents, Paul, 41, and Coral, 43, were following the verdicts from the public gallery, on a balcony overlooking the courtroom. The verdicts were greeted with complete silence from the public gallery.
The trial, which began on 30 April, was told that Bridger was a “fantasist” who had “a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases.” The
defendant had told police he was an SAS-trained “mercenary”, but he was in fact a former abattoir worker and a failed fireman.
Elwen Evans, prosecuting, said Bridger murdered April then played a “cruel game” in an attempt to cover his tracks.
She also told the jury about the kind of obscene material which had been found on Bridger’s laptop following his arrest, which also stored pictures of young female murder victims, including Soham girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
Bridger also had images of young local girls, including April and her half-sisters. On the day April was abducted, Bridger had viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting the apparent rape of a physically restrained and visibly distressed girl.
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.
Ms Evans told the jury Bridger’s claim that April died in a car accident was a 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, where microscopic pieces of April’s skull were found as part of a police investigation which cost about £8.5 million.
The senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Andy John, said the “evil and manipulative” Bridger had “gone to enormous lengths to destroy the evidence, conceal his involvement and avoid detection”.
Police have pledged the search for April’s remains will resume if new information is disclosed by Bridger. After the verdict, Ed Beltrami, chief Crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Wales, described Bridger as a “cold-hearted murderer” who “spun a web of lies and half-truths”.