April Jones trial: Friend tells court missing schoolgirl was 'smiling when she got into a grey Land Rover'

Child witness says five-year-old friend appeared to go willingly

A seven-year-old girl described how a smiling and happy-looking April Jones climbed into the back of a grey Land Rover on the night that she disappeared even though her parents had warned her about the dangers of going off in strangers’ vehicles.

Appearing via videolink, the child was seen clutching her teddy bear and was given juice and crisps as she recalled the events of the night her friend went missing whilst playing outside her home in Machynlleth, Powys, Mid Wales, in October last year.

A DVD of her police interviews was played to the jury at Mold Crown Court where former slaughterhouse worker Mark Bridger, 47, is on trial for abduction, murder and perverting the course of justice by hiding April’s remains.

Her disappearance sparked the biggest police search ever conducted in Britain although her body has never been fund. April’s blood and remnants of what is believed to be a child’s skull were found at Bridger’s cottage three miles from her home. He claims he accidentally killed April in a collision with his Land Rover and cannot remember what he did with the body

The child, who cannot be named because of her age, told investigators that she and her five-year-old friend had been playing together but it had started to get dark and called for her to come home.

She was asked to draw a picture of the vehicle she had seen and told police she saw her friend “by a Land Rover van” on the Bryn-Y-Gog estate” where April lived. She said: “I saw her by the person that was waiting by the van.” Bridger bowed his head as the jury listened to her evidence.

The child watched proceedings via the videolink from Aberystwyth, accompanied by an adult. Her evidence was recorded the day after April’s disappearance. The jury could see the youngster sitting on a sofa holding a toy rabbit as she was asked questions about what she had witnessed.

”She did not say she was going to go in it. I know they (April's parents) wouldn't let her go at that time. The man didn't take her in the van - she got into the van, having a happy face she had and she wasn't upset,“ she said.

The child told an officer that she saw the man climb out of the vehicle.

“He was waiting outside the van for someone, I don't know who. I don't think it would be April he would be waiting for. I don't know why April would want to get into the van because her mum and dad told her not to get into vans like that.

“She wasn't crying, she was happy. She got into the back of the van and it just drove off the way it came and parked,” she said.

The girl said the man was wearing a green jacket and “bluey/black jeans”. “I can definitely tell you he had brown hair,“ she added. “It wasn't that dark and I could see he had brown hair because the headlights were on.”

April got into the front door of the Land Rover after finding the rear entrances to be ”locked or broken”, she said.

“I told April's mum April had gone in someone's car and she hasn't came back,” the seven-year-old said.

During the special hearing Mr Justice Griffith-Williams, barristers and court officials discarded their wigs and robes to create a less formal setting for the child’s evidence. Proceedings were paused every 15 minutes so the youngster did not “tire or lose concentration”.

The judge warned her that it was important to tell the truth. Under cross examination by Brendan Kelly QC, who is defending Bridger, she was asked whether her mother had shown her pictures of Land Rovers before she spoke to police.

Answering questions through an intermediary she replied that she had drawn what she had seen.

Mr Kelly also suggested that she had misremembered certain details about the vehicle and challenged her over how April had got into the van.

The trial continues.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing