THE man accused of kidnapping and murdering schoolgirl April Jones behaved in a “strange” and “odd” manner at a parents’ evening hours before her disappearance, a court has heard.
The five-year-old was allegedly snatched by Mark Bridger, 47, who denies her murder. April, who had cerebral palsy, vanished while playing on her bike near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, in the early evening of 1 October last year.
On the day she went missing, Bridger turned up at a parents’ evening at Machynlleth Junior School, behaving oddly, Mold Crown Court heard yesterday.
The court was also told the headteacher of the school knew about the defendant’s “history of relationships with young mothers” and how he allegedly tried to entice another young girl into his car around an hour before April disappeared.
The court heard from Gwenfair Glyn, headteacher at Machynlleth Junior School, where April was a year-one pupil.
Mrs Glyn gave her evidence in Welsh and her words were translated and relayed to the jury via headphones.
She told the court about the parents’ evening which the defendant attended at around 5:20pm on the day of April’s disappearance. His daughter was a pupil at the school, the court heard.
Mrs Glyn said the first time she spotted Bridger, he was talking to a girl aged around 14 or 15. She said she believed the girl was a former pupil.
She said she had found it strange that an adult would be talking to a secondary school pupil. Brendan Kelly QC, defending, suggested it might not be strange as the defendant had once lived near the girl’s family.
But Mrs Glyn said: “It still appeared odd because I knew Mr Bridger had a history of relationships with young mothers.”
She added: “It still appeared strange to me that an adult was talking to a young girl from the secondary school.”
Earlier, the court heard how April’s desperate mother told police “She’s been taken”.
Coral Jones paced her house repeating the words as the first officer arrived and the massive search began for her five-year-old daughter, a police officer said.
PC Fiona Evans told the jury she was the first police officer called to the incident and went straight to April’s home.
“At the house Coral was clearly distressed,” PC Evans said.
“Pacing the corridor, repeating, ‘She’s been taken! She’s been taken!’”
The officer took an initial account from another youngster, April’s best friend who witnessed the alleged abduction.
“Initially in my opinion she appeared nervous, stood still, staring straight ahead,” the officer said. “I needed to get as much information as possible. At the same time I didn’t want to upset or frighten her.”
The officer said she said to the girl: “We need to find April. Do you know where she is?
“She said, ‘She’s gone in a van, a grey van’. I asked her what sort of van. She said, ‘I don’t know. Small in the front and big in the back’.”
PC Evans took the girl outside to see if any of the parked cars were the same vehicle or looked similar to it, but the girl could not answer.
April’s body has never been found.
The trial continues.