The suspect in the April Jones murder trial told police he would like to apologise to her parents but repeatedly insisted that he could not help them locate their missing child because he could not remember what he had done with her body, a court heard today.
During lengthy questioning by detectives following his arrest the day after the five-year-old's disappearance, Mark Bridger, a self-confessed alcoholic, described how he "accidently" crushed the little girl to death in his Land Rover and claimed he made repeated attempts to resuscitate her.
Mold Crown Court heard that he told police: "There was a little girl under the wheels of the car. She had gone a funny colour. She was only a little thing."
He added: "I need to say sorry to her family. I can't believe I didn't just call an ambulance or the police. The intention was to head to the hospital. There was no life in her. No pulse. No breathing. No response in her eyes."
He said: "I wouldn't have dumped her. She is a human being. I wouldn't have done that." The 47-year-old former abattoir worker was arrested whilst he walked his dog on a country lane as hundreds of people searched in vain for the missing child who had disappeared whilst playing outside her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales.
Video footage from a police helicopter revealed smoke billowing from the chimney of his whitewashed cottage - three miles from April's home. Fragments of bone thought to be from a child's skull, traces of April's blood as well as a burnt boning knife were found at the house, the prosecution said.
Officers who went inside looking for April described the cottage as "uncomfortably hot" and smelling strongly of detergent, air freshener and cleaning fluids, the prosecution said. Clothes had recently been cleaned and Bridger - who denies abduction, murder and concealing the child's body - had shaved his head and trimmed his beard.
On the second day of the prosecution opening Elwen Evans QC said "lies and tears appear to come easily to the defendant" who she said was "forensically aware" and "manipulative".
April's blood stains were found on the underneath of a carpet, on grouting on the floor tiles as well as on the washing machine.
He had earlier been seen carrying a black plastic bag and acting suspiciously in a layby near his home. When challenged over his behaviour he said he "had stopped for a wee". Miss Evans said it was an explanation he used again later.
He told police that it was possible that April's DNA was on his penis because he had carried her and later gone to the toilet. A swab of his penis did not find any forensic material from the missing girl. However, some DNA which might have come from April was found inside the front crotch area of the track suit trousers which he was wearing when he was arrested, it was claimed.
The prosecution also revealed details of the defendant's movements during the hours leading up to April's disappearance on October 1 last year sparking the largest search in British police history. Her body has never been found.
Bridger had spent part of the day looking at images of child abuse as well as viewing pictures of local girls downloaded from Facebook.
During the course of the afternoon he made contact with a number of women trying to arrange a date, it was claimed. He later went to April's school, which was attended by his daughter, for a parents' evening.
Shortly before April went missing, Bridger approached two girls aged eight and 10 as they were riding their bicycles on the Bryn y Gog estate where the Jones family lived.
"He wound the window down and there was a discussion during which the defendant invited one of the girls to a sleepover with his daughter," Miss Evans told the jury.
Miss Evans said there was evidence of “minor” injuries to Bridger's body and in days of police interviews “his repeated mantra was he could not remember and did not know what he had done.”
The prosecution said Bridger played a “cruel game” – telling police that he might have taken the body to a garden in town and then saying he would have sat her upright so that she would be discovered and covered her “out of respect”.
He said he would not have put her in a dustbin as this would have been “disgusting”, the court heard.
When questioned over his viewing of abuse images he said he did not believe it was right for “children to be put into pornography” and that he was searching for information on “breast development” because he did not want to “mistouch” his daughter.
Among the websites he had browsed was the FBI’s Most Wanted and he had read about US serial killer Ted Bundy whose victims included children.
He told police: "All I want to say to Paul and Coral is that I'm sorry for what happened and if, in my heart of hearts if I knew where she was, then I would tell them because, first, I could help them lay her to rest.
"Two, it would assist me with these distasteful accusations I have been accused of and three, and my children would believe, okay, I killed a young child and I did things wrong but they would also not be victimised because I'm their dad, that's all."
The trial continues.