Wales

April Jones trial: Suspect's 'sheer panic' over body

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Media captionThe jury heard how Mark Bridger could not remember what he had done with April after knocking her over in his car

A man accused of killing April Jones told police he could not remember what he had done with her body after knocking her down and panicking, a Mold Crown Court jury has heard.

Details of the first police interviews with Mark Bridger, 47, from Ceinws, Powys, after his arrest were heard.

He told police he could not remember where he put the five-year-old.

Mr Bridger denies abducting and murdering April who disappeared from Machynlleth on 1 October 2012.

She has never been found.

The prosecution claims the defendant murdered April, who had mild cerebral palsy, in a sexually motivated attack.

But Mr Bridger told police during interviews he accidentally hit her with his Land Rover Discovery and does not know how he disposed of the body because he was suffering memory loss caused by alcohol and panic.

The jury has already heard from a forensics scientist who examined the vehicle that there was no evidence of any type of collision with April.

On Thursday, the court heard that the police interview with Mr Bridger was an "urgent interview" with the priority being to find April and it started without his solicitor.

Det Con Louise Thomas said: "Can you explain to us where April is?"

Mr Bridger started by saying he had been to a parents' evening and added: "I don't know where she is."

He went on to say: "I'm a registered alcoholic. I drink 15 to 20 pints a day and half a bottle to a bottle of vodka..."

He then explained what had happened to April.

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Media captionMark Bridger denies abducting and murdering April Jones but has told Police he knocked April over

"There was two girls on their bikes... I cannot understand, the car rose up... the car rose up to one side... I didn't hear anything," he said.

"As I opened the car door on the garage side I walked round and underneath the front of the car is now, I know to be, April."

He said he picked her up and put her in the front seat of the Land Rover, telling police she was "only little".

"I also held her hand to see if there was any response... there was nothing," he added.

He left the scene and later shone a torch in her eyes, pinched her, slapped her, then "sheer panic" set in and he drove. He said he was drinking throughout.

The jury heard how he told the police he remembered being at a location known as the Monument in Machynlleth when he realised "she wasn't with us anymore".

After that he said he could not remember anything.

He said how later on he searched his house trying to find her.

"I made a cup of tea... then it was I've got to find her," he said.

He said he also looked in the car.

"I remember walking up and down the garden... just to see if she's there," he added.

"I wouldn't have ditched her I know... I don't know whether she was with me when I got back to my house," he told officers.

Describing the following morning, he said he was drinking vodka and took the dog for a walk.

Image caption Mark Bridger told police he would not have dumped April's body

"Paul and Coral are friends of mine and I've killed, killed their daughter... I did everything wrong," he told police.

Later, while walking, he said he saw a police car and he "wanted to put my hand up... I'm trying to jog my memory to know what I have done".

He repeated that he "wouldn't have dumped her, I know I wouldn't have dumped her... I knew she had gone, I knew she was dead".

The interview ended with him saying: "I want to find her."

The court also heard details of a further interview on 3 October in which Mr Bridger was asked where April was.

He replied he did not know and again said he did not believe he would have dumped her anywhere.

"I believe I would've put her somewhere to be found... the only thing I would say is if it had been raining I would've possibly covered her... out of respect," he said.

Later, he said: "In my heart of hearts I wanted her to be found."

'Emotional'

The jury heard that during the interview police asked him to go over what he had previously told them.

Mr Bridger described being an alcoholic and feeling "quite emotional" on the night that April disappeared after breaking up with his girlfriend.

His vehicle hit April but "there was no thud there, just the car rose a little bit", he told police.

He said he got out of the vehicle, adding: "There was a child or a small person under the front wheel so I pushed the car back.

"I grabbed hold of the car and I pulled it back.

"Obviously the handbrake was off... I obviously knew she was hurt... I picked her up... placed her over my seat on to the passenger seat."

He said he could see that she was injured and "had gone very pale, her lips were blue".

He tried to resuscitate April, he said, and drove off.

Later, he said he realised she had a severe chest injury. "I knew she was gone," he said.

He said he still intended to take April to hospital but "pure panic set in" and he knew it was too late.

Later in the interview, he described how he thought he had to "put her somewhere... I want her to be found... I needed her to be found".

"The last time I got back to the Monument she wasn't in the car with me," he said later. "I don't know how long I sat there".

Image caption The bicycle ridden by April Jones when she went missing and which the jury saw on Thursday

He said it was probably the early hours of the morning when he woke up at home and he searched everywhere.

Later in the interview, he said he walked from Ceinws towards Machynlleth and back in the early hours.

He said: "I've got my torch on and I'm looking in everywhere... I've walked backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards."

He recalled being at his employers and seeing the postman.

"That's when I found out who the little girl was and it was April Jones.... I then asked him to confirm that it was Paul and Coral's daughter.... I said to him something like 'my kids play with her'.... that's all I remember speaking to him about," he said.

He said he later "bumped into a group of searchers... all of them were friends and people I had related to".

In the interview he spoke about being at the Monument after his car had struck April: "This is where the panic struck," he said.

He told police he had still intended to take April to hospital but at some point asked himself: "Why would I take her to hospital if she's dead?"

He said he was "all the time" opening cans of cider and taking swigs of vodka.

Talking again about the Monument, he said: "I've sat there in tears, shaking at one point."

Later, he said: "I can't remember seeing her in the car when I drove home."

Earlier on Thursday, the jury was taken to see Mr Bridger's vehicle and view the bicycles April and her friend were playing on when she disappeared.

The jury also heard an air rifle and handcuffs were found at his house and that Mr Bridger had worked at an abattoir in Llanidloes where he had "access to an array of knives and he was skilled in both boning and skinning".

The jury heard that despite his claims he had served in the armed forces there was no record of him having done so.

As well as abduction and murder, Mr Bridger also denies intending to pervert the course of justice.

The case continues.