The mother of April Jones spoke of the “indestructible pain” of losing her daughter, as killer Mark Bridger was told he would die in prison for her abduction and murder.
Bridger, 47, was handed a whole life sentence after being convicted unanimously by a jury at Mold Crown Court. He joins a group of prisoners in Britain, numbering fewer than 50, who have no prospect of release. April, five, vanished while playing near her home in the village of Machynlleth, Powys, on 1 October last year. Her remains have never been found.
Bridger, who claimed he accidentally ran over April and then forgot where he had put her because he was in an alcohol-fuelled haze, was also convicted of perverting justice in connection to her missing remains.
He had first been arrested last year while claiming to be helping the £8.5m police search for the missing child.
Passing sentence, the judge, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, described Bridger as a “paedophile” and a “pathological liar”. In a heart-breaking victim impact statement, April’s mother Coral told the court she would “live with the guilt” of letting her daughter go out to play that night for the rest of her life.
“Words alone cannot describe how we are feeling or how we manage to function on a daily basis, and I would never, ever want any other family to go through what we are and will go through for the rest of our lives,” she said. “I still cannot go into her bedroom to sort out her clothes because the pain of her not being there is indestructible.”
Bridger had stored indecent images of children on his computer, the court heard. It was revealed after sentencing that on the day of the abduction he watched and recorded a scene from the 2009 “slasher” horror film, The Last House On The Left, in which a gang leader rapes a young teenager.
Before approaching April, who suffered from mild cerebral palsy, Bridger had spoken to three other young girls, leading Mr Justice Griffith Williams to suggest he had been “on the prowl for a young girl” that afternoon.
It can now be reported for the first time that Bridger, a father-of-six, had told a Catholic prison priest while on remand that he had put April into a river. His defence team admitted being “shocked” by the apparent confession, which was kept from the jury.
Police made several searches of the River Dovey without success. Bridger may have tried to destroy April’s body in a wood burner, the court was told, and fragments of bone and blood traces were found at his cottage in Ceinws.
Mr Justice Griffith Williams told Bridger there was “compelling evidence” that “demonstrated you are a pathological and glib liar”. He added: “There is no doubt in my mind that you are a paedophile who has for some time harboured sexual and morbid fantasies about young girls, storing on your laptop not only images of pre-pubescent and pubescent girls, but foul pornography of the gross sexual abuse of young children.”
The judge said April’s parents had “lived with the torment of a missing daughter, praying that she would be found alive” and then the realisation that Bridger was “providing the police with no assistance at all as to her whereabouts”. He added: “They have had to endure the spectacle of your hypocritical sympathy for their loss and of your tears, flowing not because of any regret for your crimes, but because of your enduring self-pity.”
The sentence takes the number of “life means life” prisoners in the UK to 48. The list includes Moors murderer Ian Brady and the “Suffolk Strangler” Steve Wright, who murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich in 2008. The Soham killer Ian Huntley received a life sentence for the murders of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2003, but with a 40-year minimum tariff. Earlier this month, Stuart Hazell, who killed schoolgirl Tia Sharp in New Addington, south London, avoided a whole-life term after a judge decided his crime could not be ruled for certain as pre-meditated or sexually motivated.
April’s mother, Coral, said outside court that she and her husband, Paul, were “relieved” at the outcome but she added: “We still do not know where she is and this will always be a very painful thing for us to deal with. April will be forever in our hearts.”
Ed Beltrami, chief Crown prosecutor for CPS Wales, said: “Since his first interview with police in October last year, Mark Bridger has relentlessly spun a web of lies and half-truths to try to distance himself from the truly horrific nature of the crime he perpetrated.”
The family’s statement
Words alone cannot describe how we are feeling or how we manage to function on a daily basis and I would never ever want any other family to go through what we are and will go through for the rest of our lives.
April was born prematurely, weighing only 4lb 2oz, and was in intensive care for two weeks.We later found out that she had a hole in her heart and a heart murmur. When she was three we noticed that she was becoming clumsy, so after numerous visits to the doctors, they finally diagnosed April with cerebral palsy.
She became a guinea pig for other children, in that she was measured for a special suit to support her growing bones and if this suit was successful they would make suits for other children.
We would have to massage her legs and get her to do exercises because she would have pain in her legs constantly. She very rarely moaned about the pain and would be always on the go, wanting to go out to play with her friends.
April ruled our lives. She was the youngest and because of her various disabilities, we would have to provide some kind of care for her all the time. Paul would get her ready for school and then I would be there when she came home. I still cannot go into her bedroom to sort out her clothes, because the pain of her not being there is indescribable. I will never forget the night of 1 October 2012. This was the night that we allowed our daughter April to go out to play with her friends, something she has done hundreds of times before, and this is the night that she never came home.
As April’s mother I will live with the guilt of letting her go out to play on the estate that night for the rest of my life.
She fought to come into the world, she fought to stay in this world, and he has taken her not only from us, but from everyone who loved her.
I will never see her smile again or hear her stomping around upstairs and on to the landing. We will never see her bring home her first boyfriend and Paul will never walk her down the aisle. How will we ever get over it?
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