April Jones trial: Accused Mark Bridger had a string of criminal convictions and lied about military past, court told

Prosecution say former slaughterhouse worker snatched and murdered schoolgirl in a 'sexually motivated' attack

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The Independent Online

The man accused of murdering five-year-old schoolgirl April Jones had a string of criminal convictions although none were in connection with child sex offences, a court heard.

Mark Bridger admitted he had lied over his military past and had never served in the SAS as he claimed to police.

The former slaughterhouse worker instead drifted through a series of jobs in Surrey and London including a stint as a firefighter before moving to Wales aged 21 where he lived in a tent on the beach. 

The jury was told he received a first conviction aged 19 - for which he received two years' probation- Bridger was in trouble with the law on a number of occasions - pleading guilty to offences including possession of a firearm, theft and obtaining property by deception.

The 47-year-old, who has six children with four different women, broke down repeatedly as he gave evidence in his defence at the murder trial where he denies the abduction and "sexually motivated" murder of the youngster.

She went missing as she played outside her home in Machynlleth, Mid Wales, last year. Her body has never been found.

Bridger told Mold Crown Court that bone fragments believed to be those of a child discovered in his wood burner at his cottage were possibly from a chicken dinner he had cooked for his own children in the stove on the Saturday before April's disappearance.

He said he had been an alcoholic since 2010 and that his drinking had adversely affected his sexual relationships with women as well as causing him memory problems.

Doctors had prescribed him anti-depressants for 12 years after he suffered anxiety and panic attacks and he was unable to sleep whilst regularly drinking up to 25 cans of cider a day -routinely driving whilst drunk.

Bridger claims that April died after he accidently ran her over in his Land Rover and that he cannot recall what he did with her body which he denies concealing.

He said he knew April's father Paul who previously went out with his girlfriend's sister.Mrs Jones left the court as the defendant described the alleged accident in which her daughter died.

Bridger claimed she had contacted him before her daughter's disappearance with a request to be Facebook friends. It was through this he was able to look at pictures of April's 16-year-old half-sister who wanted to be a model.

"She had had some modelling pictures done and she is a very pretty girl. Every time she had modelling pictures done her mum was so proud that she put them on Facebook," he said.

Other family pictures downloaded included some of April. Earlier he told the court that he had first seen internet images of child sex abuse whilst looking up Spongebob Squarepants for his daughter and had written to complain. He denied being sexually attracted to children.

The trial continues.