Murder of April Jones
|Date||1 October 2012|
|Location||Machynlleth, Powys, Wales|
|Verdict||Guilty on the counts of:
Perverting the course of justice
|Convictions||Life imprisonment (Whole life tariff)|
April Jones, (4 April 2007 – c. 1 October 2012) from Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, disappeared on 1 October 2012, aged five, after being sighted willingly getting into a vehicle near her home. Her disappearance generated a large amount of press coverage, both nationally and internationally. A 46-year-old local man, Mark Bridger, was subsequently arrested and charged with Jones's abduction and murder.
On 30 May 2013, Bridger was found guilty of April's abduction and murder in addition to perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge ordered that he never be released from prison.
On 3 October 2012, April Jones's mother made an appeal for information about her daughter. On 4 October, Prime Minister David Cameron appealed for anybody with information as to Jones's whereabouts to contact police. He said that his "heart goes out" to her family, particularly as Jones suffered from cerebral palsy—the same condition as his son, Ivan, who died in 2009. He commented that "clearly having this happen to you, and the fact that she suffers from cerebral palsy, something I know a little about from my own children, only makes this worse. My appeal would be to everyone. If you know anything, if you saw anything, heard anything, have any ideas you can bring forward, talk to the police."
In the days following her disappearance, a large search operation for the girl was mounted around the Machynlleth area involving police and search and rescue teams using specialist equipment, as well as hundreds of volunteers. On 12 December, police stated that the search for Jones would continue into 2013. On 27 March 2013, police revealed that they were to call off the search for Jones at the end of April of that year. On 22 April 2013, police confirmed that the search had officially ended. The police also commented saying that "a reactive team of specialist officers are available to respond to any new information that is received." The search for April Jones was the largest missing person search in UK police history.
On 5 October 2012, police officially made the case into a murder inquiry. The Sky News presenter Kay Burley was accused of insensitivity after she broke the news of the probable death of Jones live on air to volunteers who had been assisting in the search for her. The interviewees were unaware the case had become a murder inquiry.
On 6 October, local man Mark Bridger was charged with child abduction, murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He appeared before magistrates at Aberystwyth on 8 October, where he was additionally charged with the unlawful concealment and disposal of a body, and remanded in custody pending an appearance at Caernarfon Crown Court on 10 October. He was held on remand at HMP Manchester, and appeared in court via videolink for the hearing.
On 14 January 2013 at Mold Crown Court, Bridger pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Jones, but accepted that he was "probably responsible" for her death. The trial was to begin on 25 February at Mold Crown Court, but it was adjourned until 29 April on request of Bridger's defence team in order to make further inquiries.
Mark Leonard Bridger was born at the War Memorial Hospital in Carshalton, London, on 6 November 1965, the middle of three children of Pamela and policeman Graham Bridger. He has an older sister and younger brother. He grew up in a semi-detached house in Wallington, London. He attended John Ruskin High School in Croydon, leaving with seven CSEs.
When he was 19, he was convicted of firearms offences and theft. He moved to Wales in the 1980s. In 1991, he was convicted of criminal damage, affray and driving without insurance. In 1992, he was convicted of driving whilst disqualified and without insurance. In 2004, he was convicted of battery and threatening behaviour; in 2007 he was convicted of assault.
Bridger's work history is varied, having worked as an abattoir worker, hotel porter, firefighter, lifeguard, mechanic, and welder. He has six children by four women, including two by his wife, whom he married in 1990.
The trial of Mark Bridger began on 29 April 2013 before judge Mr. Justice Griffith-Williams.
On 24 May, the BBC reported that the defence case had ended, the case would continue on Tuesday 28 May, after the bank holiday, and the judge said he expected to sum up the case on Wednesday. On 29 May the judge continued to sum up the case, then he ordered the jury to retire to consider its verdicts.
On 30 May 2013, Mark Bridger was found guilty of abduction, murder and perverting the course of justice. Later that day, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole-life tariff, having been called a "pathological liar" and "a paedophile" by the judge. This means that he is unlikely ever to be released from prison.
After the guilty verdict, it was revealed that Bridger had confessed to the prison chaplain at Strangeways that he had disposed of April's body in the fast-flowing River Dyfi, which extends past Bridger's house, leading to the sea via Aberdyfi. Dyfed-Powys Police have said they doubt Bridger's claims and believe he scattered April's remains across the countryside near his house.
In July 2013, while serving his sentence, Bridger was attacked by a fellow prisoner with an improvised shank, resulting in him being admitted to hospital with facial and throat injuries, for which he received stitches. In December 2013, Bridger launched an appeal against his whole-life sentence, but in January 2014 dropped the appeal.
On 8 October 2012, a 19-year-old male from Chorley in Lancashire was sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment in a Young Offender Institution for posting comments about Jones and Madeleine McCann on his Facebook page, after pleading guilty to sending a grossly offensive message, an offence under section 127 (1)a of the Communications Act 2003. In a separate case, an 18-year-old male from Worcester who posted his opinions about the case on his Facebook page was given a six-week suspended prison sentence on 7 November, and ordered to do 200 hours' community service.
Changes to web search engines
In November 2013, partly after campaigning by April Jones's parents, the search engines Google and Bing modified their systems to block results from searches aimed at producing child abuse images.
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