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April Jones: Mark Bridger probably responsible for death, defence tells court

media captionMark Bridger has denied three charges, including her murder and abduction

The man accused of murdering missing five-year-old April Jones is expected to say he was probably responsible for her death but he did not murder her, a court has been told by his barrister.

Mark Bridger, 47, has denied three charges, including her murder and abduction following her disappearance in Machynlleth, Powys, on 1 October.

April's parents, Coral and Paul, were at the plea and case management hearing at Mold Crown Court.

The trial date was set for 25 February.

image captionApril Jones was on her bike when she disappeared last October

April went missing while playing on her bike outside the family home, and she has never been found.

Her disappearance sparked one of the largest police searches in UK history.

The judge, Mr Justice John Griffith-Williams, ordered that none of the evidence mentioned in court during Monday's hearing could be publicly reported.

But the judge said a statement by the defending barrister, Brendan Kelly QC, that the accused was not guilty of murder but that he accepted that he was probably responsible for her death could be reported.

Pink T-shirt

The defendant, who is from Machynlleth, also denies a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, which refers to the unlawful disposal and concealment of a body.

Dyfed-Powys Police still have 16 teams involved in the search operation.

April's parents were led into the court before the defendant was brought up.

Mrs Jones was wearing a pink T-shirt and Mr Jones wore a salmon pink shirt. The colour has been used in ribbons and other publicity material since their daughter's disappearance.

The defendant, with short cropped hair and goatee beard, was then brought in and confirmed his name to the court.

image captionApril's parents, Paul and Coral Jones, attended the hearing in Mold

Both parents stared at Mr Bridger as the charges were read to him.

He stood, his arms behind his back, and looked forward as he entered not guilty pleas.

'Come home'

The former lifeguard, wearing a navy blue jumper with a pair of spectacles tucked into his collar, looked up towards the ceiling as he entered his final not guilty plea.

Last week, April's mother posted a Facebook message saying: "Come home so my heart can be fixed."

She said she missed her "like hell" and wants her back in time for her 41st birthday.

That is later this month, and is just before April's brother Harley turns 11.

More on this story

  • April Jones: Bicycle photo of missing girl released