April Jones case: Jury sent home for the night

Mark Bridger could not explain why April's blood was found at his house, the judge said

A jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering April Jones has been sent home for the night.

Mark Bridger, 47, of Ceinws, Powys, denies abducting and murdering five-year-old April, who went missing near her Machynlleth home on 1 October 2012.

He has told Mold Crown Court he accidentally ran her over with his car but the prosecution says he murdered her and lied to cover it up.

The judge told the jury to "take as long as you need".

Mr Bridger said he "panicked" after knocking over April - who had mild cerebral palsy - and cannot remember what he did with her body.

The court has heard April's blood was found in several locations at his home and fragments from a human skull were in his fire.

The judge Mr Justice John Griffith Williams continued his summing up of the case on Wednesday morning before the jury went out at 13:54 BST.

At 16:15 the jurors were sent home until Thursday morning with the judge telling them they must not "under any circumstances" discuss the case, even among themselves.

He went through the prosecution's evidence first and started with the background of the case, reminding the jury of April's family history and that of the defendant.

He also reminded jurors of the evidence from April's mother Coral that her daughter would probably have known Mr Bridger by sight but would not have got into his vehicle knowingly.

April Jones April Jones had been playing with a friend when she disappeared from near her home

The judge mentioned that the defendant worked in a slaughterhouse in Llanidloes and was skilled in the use of knives for boning and skinning.

He said Mr Bridger had never served in the armed forces despite his previous claims.

Moving on to key evidence, he began by detailing text messages sent and received by Mr Bridger on the morning April disappeared.

The judge said at 12:11 the defendant accessed a pornographic cartoon "and you need no reminder of what that showed" and spoke of him sending Facebook messages to women, asking them for drinks.

Describing April's movements on the day, he reminded the jury she came home from school and had her dinner, then went to the leisure centre for a swimming lesson.

Later, she returned home and the judge said the evidence that her parents - who were again in the public gallery - gave in and let her go out to play would have "struck a chord with many parents".

The judge reminded them of the evidence surrounding the parents' evening and how the defendant later drove to Bryn-Y-Gog, the estate where April lived, then around the local area.

Start Quote

She said the man got out of the Land Rover... it was as if he was waiting for someone... she said she didn't know why April wanted to go... but April got in through the driver's door”

End Quote Mr Justice John Griffith Williams Judge

Mr Bridger, looked straight at the judge during his summing up, was seen in or around the estate by several witnesses on the evening of 1 October, before April's disappearance.

The judge reminded the jury of the evidence of the 10-year-old girl who was invited by Mr Bridger to a sleepover with his daughter.

Moving on to the seven-year-old friend April was playing with when she went missing, the judge said: "In her interview she said that when they were near the BT van she told April to 'come on'... she said that she called her to tell her to get home because it was getting dark.

"April was talking to a man who was standing between the Land Rover and the BT van... she could see their mouths moving.

"She said the man got out of the Land Rover... it was as if he was waiting for someone... she said she didn't know why April wanted to go... but April got in through the driver's door."

He added that in the girl's words: "He was inside the van when April was going to get in..."

The judge reminded the jury of what the girl had said in cross-examination by defence counsel Brendan Kelly QC. When Mr Kelly asked the girl whether she had seen April on the floor, the judge said the girl replied: "She was talking, but she was standing up when she was talking to the man..."

'Black bin bag'

The judge then told the jury how April's brother had later run home and said: "Someone's taken April."

The 999 call was placed and by 20:13 a police road block had been set up on the nearby Dyfi bridge.

The judge went on to remind the jury that police examined CCTV footage taken between 19:00 on 1 October and midnight. "The defendant's Land Rover was not to be seen," he said.

Moving on to 2 October, the judge talked about the evidence of a woman who saw the defendant carrying a black bin bag. Her impression was there was something in it although it was not very big.

He also reminded the jury of Insp Gareth Thomas, who was in charge of the searches, who said if April had been in the area searched she would have been found.

The moment of arrest was also discussed when Mr Bridger said: "It was an accident, I crushed her with the car."

The judge said the jury had heard evidence the defendant was an "emotional wreck".

Considerable sympathy

Later, the judge went on to review evidence at Mount Pleasant, Mr Bridger's home.

He said some experts agreed the carpet appeared to have been cleaned, adding that blood matching April's DNA was found and there was "no issue this is April's blood".

One expert had described what appeared to be a trail of blood spots in the house.

The judge said the court had also heard that a large area of blood staining by the fireplace indicated "prolonged contact" with the source of April's blood which, it was believed, had come from April herself.

He also referred to evidence from a crime scene investigator who said the woodburner showed signs of having been wiped down.

The expert had noticed this by looking at pictures recently and did not notice at the time. On this evidence, the judge said: "My advice, ladies and gentleman, is to put it to one side."

Mark Bridger's Land Rover Examination of Mark Bridger's vehicle found no evidence of a collision, the jury was reminded

The jury was also reminded there was no evidence of blood on knives and other tools around the fireplace.

One expert had said there was no blood or other biological material relating to April found inside Mr Bridger's Land Rover and no evidence of a large-scale clean-up. Fingerprint tests were inconclusive.

There was also nothing to indicate anyone had been run over by the vehicle. Similarly, no evidence of a collision was found on the bicycle April was riding.

Moving on to computer evidence, the jury has been reminded that images of April's older sister and two older half-sisters were on Mr Bridger's computer. April could also be seen in some of the pictures.

There were also images of serious sexual abuse.

The judge later talked about bone evidence from the fire saying the experts concentrated on five fragments and were satisfied they had been subjected to heat.

He told jurors to concentrate on these five rather than the other 12 that were found which could not be identified as human or non-human.

Alcohol content

The judge said the jury would "want to have regard to the objectivity of those witnesses", adding they relied very much upon their individual experiences in the field.

One expert concluded that four of the fragments were "more likely to be human than non-human" and it was not possible to determine either way in the case of the fifth.

Mark Bridger's home Remnants of human skull were found in Mark Bridger's fire, the court has heard

The jury was reminded that Prof Sue Black, described by the judge as "probably the highest qualified" of the experts, could not conclude whether the fragments were human or cranial bone.

Turning to Mr Bridger's police interview, the judge said blood and urine tests taken nearly six hours after his arrest showed no alcohol content.

The defendant had also spoken at length about the manner of the possible disposal of April's body, saying he would not have put her in water because he was scared of drowning.

Mr Bridger also spoke of the possibility of April's body being burned but his fire training taught him flesh, like pork, would smell.

After lunch the judge began summing up the defence's case, saying Mr Bridger had a number of previous convictions for a variety of offences but had always pleaded guilty. He has no convictions for sexual offences.

The jury was told that Mr Bridger, who said he was a registered alcoholic, worked at a slaughterhouse for some time which involved some cutting of meat but was primarily focused on the testing side.

The defendant had said he saved pictures of April's sister and half-sisters on his computer because he was asked to do so by his children. He said he did not know that April was in some of the pictures.

Parents' evening

The judge reminded the jury that the defendant said he cooked dinner for his children, including chicken in a wok, on the Saturday before April disappeared and anything left over was thrown into the fire.

On viewing images of a 14-year-old girl, the judge said Mr Bridger believed the girl may have been his daughter.

Mark Brider's home Mark Bridger could not explain how April Jones's blood got into his house, the court was told

The defendant had said he was not sober at his daughter's parents' evening but believed he was able to hold a conversation. Later that evening he was not sober, the court had heard.

He parked near a BT van on the estate where April lived because he had wanted to see his ex-partner that night, the defendant had said.

The judge described how Mr Bridger claimed he had tried to drive away when his vehicle rose up and he saw a child "who was limp".

He had remembered checking her chest and pulse but there was no response. As he was driving it came to him there was no A&E at Machynlleth hospital.

The judge said the defendant claimed he later "panicked" and had no recollection of getting back to his cottage.

The defendant said he could not explain how April's blood got into his house but over the last few months it came back to him that he had laid April on the carpet.

The judge also told the jury that when Mr Bridger was asked about images on his computer he "denied he was a paedophile".

Mr Bridger also denies intending to pervert the course of justice.

The case continues.

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