Episode 7 – The Murder of April Jones

Losing your child suddenly and violently is heart-breaking enough, but not having the possibility to lay them to rest is a different kind of torture. 5-year-old April Jones’ parents know who took their daughter from them, but they still do not know what happened to their child or where her remains are. Mark Bridger has told a lie after a lie since his arrest back in 2012, preventing April’s parents from bringing their little girl back home.

April Sue-Lyn Jones was born on April 4, 2007, to Paul and Coral Jones, who lived on a small housing estate in Machynlleth with April’s two siblings, Jazmin and Harley. The beginning of April’s life was not easy, she was born seven weeks premature and was left with cerebral palsy down her left side—from hip to leg. As Paul said: 

“She had a lot of pain with her leg…she was very determined to get up and do something even when her leg wouldn’t let her. So, one of the things we did from the beginning was actually teach her to ride a bike at the age of three and a half which gave her mobility to get around…She loved that bike, and she went everywhere on it.”

April definitely did not let her leg slow her down. She grew up to be a pretty five-year-old with a cheeky smile and a need to be part of everything. Her sister Jazmin remembers how April used to come to sit with her when she was watching a film or playing on their laptop. The little girl was always smiling and laughing—if she was not, it was usually due to the pain in her leg. Sometimes, April sat crying on the stairs, but her parents or siblings were always there to make her feel better. April was loved, and none of her family members could have ever guessed, even in their worst nightmares, that they would not have many more happy years with her.

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Monday, October 1, 2012, started like any other morning in the Jones household. April, who shared a room with her 16-year-old Jazmin, often crawled over to her sister’s side to wake her for a cuddle. Paul would then come to get April ready and shout to 10-year-old Harley to make sure he was awake too. Afterward, all the children had breakfast together before leaving for school. That Monday, Coral, and Paul went out to do some shopping.

Later that afternoon, April attended her weekly swimming lessons at the local leisure centre while her mother and father participated in a parents’ evening at her school. April was later captured on CCTV, looking happy and playful, with her hair still wet after the practice. When April returned home, she had a school friend with her. Together, the girls ate spaghetti and toast that Paul cooked and watched the film “Tangled.” It was quite late already after the movie ended, but April pleaded with her parents to allow her to play with her friend outside. April still wanted to go for a ride on her small pink bicycle and was excited when her parents told her she was allowed to stay out for 15 minutes longer than usual due to her excellent school report that day.

At 7:00 PM, April left her home in the market town of Machynlleth. Machynlleth, located in Powys, Wales, is a small town of just over 2000 people—that kind of place where everyone knows each other. Nobody really thought twice about letting their children play out on the streets by themselves. The neighbourhood was considered safe, and no one could have ever imagined the horrors that were about to come.

Around 20 minutes after April had headed out with her bike, her mother Coral went to look for her. After nine minutes of searching, Coral began to panic and called 999 to report her daughter missing. An officer from the Dyfed–Powys Police soon arrived at the scene and spoke with a child who said they had seen April voluntarily climbing into a gray van with a “happy face.” Immediately, the situation was labeled as a “critical incident,” and a massive search for April was launched. By 8 PM, scores of Machynlleth people had joined the search, and by the early hours of October 2, there were hundreds of people looking for the missing 5-year-old. The police instigated the first UK child rescue alert—intended to alert members of the public that a child has been taken. The search for April Jones would eventually become the largest missing person search in UK police history—even though the suspect was arrested less than 24 hours after she vanished.

Thanks to the child witness, the police quickly identified a 46-year-old local man named Mark Bridger as a potential suspect. His left-hand drive Land Rover Discovery matched the description of the vehicle the child had seen April entering following a conversation with the driver. The police immediately began to investigate who exactly Man Bridger was.

Mark Leonard Bridger was born in 1965 in Carshalton, London, and is the middle of three children of a police officer Graham Bridger, and his wife, Pamela. Mark graduated with six CSEs and enrolled at Croydon College, where he started studying engineering but failed to finish the course. When he was 19-year-old, Mark was convicted of firearms offenses and theft before relocating to Wales. There, Mark continued causing trouble and was convicted of criminal damage, affray and driving without insurance in 1991. Within the following 20 years, he was found guilty of such things as driving while disqualified and without insurance and battery, threatening behavior and assault.

When Mark was not doing something illegal, he drifted through a series of jobs, including a hotel porter, firefighter, lifeguard, mechanic, welder, and slaughterhouse worker. He was a six-footer with a snake tattoo on his arm, the father of six children—from four relationships and a trusted figure on the Bryn-y-Gog estate. Even April’s parents knew who Mark Bridger was—he and Paul had dated local sisters back in the day. Apparently, Mark had also helped Coral at some point with her car and been a Facebook friend of hers. Weirdly, Mark had also approached April’s sister Jazmin on Facebook just months before the 5-year-old’s disappearance:

“I remember being sat in the living room on the laptop and a message popped up on Facebook. And I was like: ‘Dad, who is this?’ He explained who he was. ‘But why is he adding me on Facebook?’ So, I deleted him and that was that.”

So, the Jones family was familiar with Mark Bridger and even believed his made-up story of him being a former serving officer with the SAS who had trained in exotic locations around the world. In truth, Mark was a man with a dark past and even darker fantasies.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, at 3:03, the police forcefully entered Mark’s home, Mount Pleasant cottage. The officer noticed the home smelled strongly of detergent and was unpleasantly hot. At first glance, no signs of April were found. Mark was arrested on suspicion of abduction 30 minutes later as he was walking his dog close to the river. Following the arrest, the police stated they were still working on the presumption that April was still alive and urged the locals to continue searching for her. However, Mark’s statements soon fade away the last piece of hope of bringing April back home unharmed. Mark told the arresting officer the story he would repeat in dozens of police interviews and later in court: he had accidentally hit April with his Land Rover Discovery. Mark’s so-called confession went as follows:

“I had a few to drink and there were two girls on their bikes, I remember the dark-headed girl came from behind the car. I looked to see where the other girl was and I couldn’t see this other girl. The next minute the bike was there. I started the car up and as I went to pull away, there wasn’t a thud, I can’t understand. The car rose up, as I opened the car I walked round and underneath the front of the car is… April. She was only little, so I picked her up and put her across my seat and put her in the passenger seat. I tried to take her pulse and there was nothing. I put my mouth over her mouth and went to blow and put my hand back on her chest and that’s when I realised, one side of her chest wasn’t there. I’d obviously crushed her little body.”

Mark then claimed he left Bryn-y-Gog to get medical help for April, but when he realized the girl’s lips were purple and the color had gone out of her—he panicked:

“Paul and Coral are friends of mine and I’ve killed their daughter.”

As you can tell, Mark’s account has been quite detailed—until the point when he was asked where April’s body was. Suddenly, Mark could not remember:

“She’s not there, and I can’t find her. I wouldn’t have ditched her, I know that I would have put her somewhere, but I can’t remember what I’ve done. I don’t know where I put her.”

Mark claimed that due to him being drunk at the time, he was unable to recall what he had done with April’s body. The police immediately doubted his version of the events, and tests done on his car found no evidence to prove his story. Instead, during a forensic examination of his home, the team found blood fragments of bone on the stove along with a charred boning knife. The blood was matched to April’s DNA—that was enough to convince the Crown Prosecution Service to charge Mark Bridger with murder even though there was no body. It was not possible to get a DNA sample of the bone fragments, but they were consistent with a “younger individual”—possibly from a child’s skull.

In addition, the police discovered Mark’s collection of child pornography and child abuse images on his computer. He had pictures of Soham murder victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson who was raped and killed in 1996. He had pictures of 16-year-old Jasmin and 5-year-old April—some of which had been downloaded just eight days before her abduction. 

While the police also discovered Mark had searched things such as “naked young five-year-old,” he denied being a paedophile, claiming he was impotent as a result of antidepressants and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, Mark claimed he only had these pictures as he had been conducting research into his own teenage daughter’s physical development. Needless to say, nobody believed a word that came out of Mark Bridger’s mouth.

On Monday, January 14, 2013, Mark pleaded not guilty to abduction, murder and concealing, disposing of or destroying April’s body. But he admits he was “probably responsible” for her death. A week later, Dyfed Powys police announced that the search for April Jones was over—despite all the efforts, they could not find her. It is believed Mark most likely drove the little girl away via a back road on Monday, October 1 and sped out of town. He then took his victim to his cottage and, at some point, smothered April to death, dismembered her body and dumped the pieces.

On Thursday, May 30, 2013, Mark Bridger was found guilty of abducting and murdering April Jones. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order. It was later revealed Mark had confessed to the Strangeways’ prison chaplain that he had disposed of April’s body in the fast-flowing Afon Dulas-river. Police, however, doubt Mark is telling the truth and believe he scattered April’s remains across the countryside—possibly to several locations and in such small pieces, it makes it also impossible for anyone to find her. Criminal psychologists say it can take years before Mark Bridger finally cracks and reveals what he did to April.

Still, despite not knowing where their daughter and sister’s remains are, the Jones family held a funeral service for April on September 26, 2013. Since then, they have tried to learn to live the new normal, without their little sunshine. As Paul said:

“That is our future, just the four of us. Not the five of us.”

NOTE: Paul Jones got sick with a brain virus in 2018. Due to his illness, Paul forgot what had happened to April had had to be reminded of his daughter’s murder after he could not understand why she had not visited him in hospital. He had to feel the pain over losing April all over again. Sadly, Paul has not fully recovered and continues to have issues with his memory. Coral commented on the situation by saying:

“How much more can my family take? I’ve already lost my daughter and now I have lost my soulmate and my rock and I feel so alone.”

Episode Credits: 

Host – Rhiannon Doe 

Voiceover – Kwesi 

Website layout & design – Fran Howard 

NEWS ARTICLES & RESOURCES

April Jones murder – the full story: Alcoholic paedophile Mark Bridger turned online sex fantasies into grim reality

Psychologist: Mark Bridger may not reveal what happened to April Jones for years

April Jones murder case – timeline

Horrifying theory explains how April Jones’ killer disposed of her tiny body

April Jones murder: how detectives pieced together her final hours

STILL MISSING What happened to April Jones and why has her body never been found?

April Jones’ sister reveals how killer approached her on Facebook

April Jones murder trial told Mark Bridger’s story ‘incredible’

April Jones murder case: Officer describes arrest of Mark Bridger

What happened to murdered April Jones and who is Mark Bridger?

April Jones’ father cannot remember her murder after he was struck by a brain virus

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