Mark Bridger asked 10-year-old girl to 'come for a sleepover with his daughter' shortly before April Jones abduction, court hears

 

The man accused of murdering April Jones asked a 10-year-old girl to “come for a sleepover with his daughter” shortly before he snatched April, a jury has heard.

A recorded police interview with the youngster, who cannot be named because of her age, was shown at Mark Bridger's trial at Mold Crown Court.

Former slaughterhouse worker Bridger , 47, denies abducting and murdering five-year-old April as she played near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, on the evening of October 1 last year.

In her interview, recorded on video two days after April disappeared, the ten-year-old said she was cycling on the Bryn-Y-Gog estate with a friend when Bridger pulled up alongside her in his car.

She said: “I saw Mark in his car and he offered me to have a sleepover with his daughter at his house.”

Questioned further by the interviewing officer, the girl, wearing a blue school jumper and yellow shirt, said it happened about two hours before April vanished.

She said: “I phoned my mum about fiveish and asked if I could go on a bike ride around Bryn-Y-Gog.

”I stopped on the pavement to speak to my mum and he parked up and spoke to me.

“He put his window down and started talking to me.”

Asked how she reacted, the girl, who said she knew one of Bridger's children, said: “It was odd that he offered me a sleepover and I answered back and said, well that would be good, and he said, 'that's sorted then'.”

She told the officer she then cycled off and Bridger drove away and there was no further discussion.

She said she next saw him about five or ten minutes later after she had cycled around the block with her friend.

The girl told the police he had parked up on the estate and was sitting in the driver's seat of his left-hand drive Land Rover and leaning to one side.

The witness, sitting on a sofa in the police interview room, then demonstrated the leaning and said Bridger had a newspaper across his lap and appeared to be speaking into a walkie talkie.

“I didn't speak to him. He put his hand up and put his thumb up towards me and I smiled and went on,” she added.

She said it was “odd” that Bridger would ask her to a sleepover as she had never been to a sleepover with any of his children before.

She described seeing April playing nearby with a friend at about the same time.

She said: “April was up the hill. I'm not quite sure if I saw her before or after I saw him.”

Later that night, the girl said she was at home when there was a knock at the door.

“Two boys came to the house and said April had been kidnapped and would we be able to come and help find her,” she said.

April's body was never found despite the largest search operation ever staged by British police.

The prosecution claims Bridger snatched and murdered the youngster, who had cerebral palsy, in a sexually motivated attack.

The defendant claims he knocked her down in his car by accident and cannot remember what he did with her body because he was drunk.

Elwen Evans QC, for the prosecution, read the statement of Eleanor Holt, deputy head at Machynlleth Junior School, who saw the defendant at a parents' evening hours before April was allegedly snatched.

She said she spoke to Bridger regarding his daughter, who was a pupil at the school.

She said: “I think something gave me the impression that he might have had a couple of drinks due to his manner but I couldn't be sure of this. I couldn't smell any alcohol on his breath.”

Another teacher, Sian Calben, said she saw Bridger talking to a teenage girl and two younger girls while he was at the parents' evening.

She said: “Mark seemed very chatty and full of himself on Monday - as if he wanted to make his presence felt more than usual.”

The court also heard from numerous witnesses who had seen Bridger and his car “to-ing and fro-ing” around the estate around the time that April disappeared.

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