Bridger appears in court as family ties to April revealed

Man accused of killing five-year-old girl is remanded in custody as search continues

The man charged with the abduction and murder of five-year-old April Jones is uncle to her two older half-sisters, it has emerged.

Police have been studying the links between Mark Bridger, who appeared before Caernarfon Crown Court, North Wales, via videolink yesterday, and the missing girl's family.

According to local reports, Mr Bridger and April's father, Paul Jones, had children from previous relationships with sisters Elaine Dafydd and Karen Griffiths.

The cousins grew up with April in Machynlleth, Mid Wales, and have been involved in the search for her since she disappeared 10 days ago, describing the youngster on Facebook as their "little sister".

Police have refused to confirm details of the relationship between Mr Bridger and April.

Mr Bridger, a 46-year-old former lifeguard, is accused of abducting and murdering April, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.

He wore a beard, thin-rimmed glasses and a black jumper and sat in front of a grey curtain during the 20-minute hearing in which he answered the clerk's questions by responding: "Yes ma'am."

He was remanded in custody and no application for bail was made. The court heard that the prosecution had been given notice of Mr Bridger's "likely defence" which had been taken in interviews.

Some of the witnesses in the case will be as young as seven, the court heard. The judge, Mr Justice Griffith-Williams, said a decision about the location of the future trial would be made after consultation with the victim's family.

The case was adjourned until January 11 while investigations continue. Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, said forensic and other "extensive investigations" were continuing "apace" and the judge agreed that "matters may develop".

April was last seen near her home on the Bryn-y-Gog estate in the Mid Wales town on Monday evening last week. The search continued yesterday with teams scouring the hills and rivers surrounding Machynlleth. Police cordoned off a caravan close to Mr Bridger's home and searched a clearing just a few hundred metres from Ceinws, where he rented a house.

Ms Griffiths, mother to April's half-sisters, said: "The past week has been very hard and the community support for the family has been overwhelming. We are trying to focus all our energy on finding little April and staying strong for all the family members."