April Jones was snatched from the streets and murdered by evil paedophile Mark Bridger. He'd previously viewed vile child abuse images on his laptop and made his warped fantasy a reality. April's courageous family are now campaigning to toughen up laws against those who download illegal images of children, in their daughter's name.
Just after 7pm on 1 October 2012 April Jones, 5, was playing with her friend near her home in Machynlleth, Powys.
She’d been allowed out later than normal as a special reward for the glowing school report she’d received that day.
As dusk fell over the close-knit estate, April’s mum Coral sent her older brother out to fetch her. He returned alone with sickening news.
April’s pal had seen her walk over to a large grey car and climb inside.
It had then driven away.
Suddenly, Coral was living every parent’s worst nightmare.
She called the police in tears saying: ‘I think my daughter’s been kidnapped.’
The biggest police search in UK history was launched.
But, 36 hours later, with no sightings, Coral made an emotional television appeal for information before she broke down, sobbing. ‘April is only 5 years old,’ she begged. ‘Please, please, help find her.’
Hundreds of locals joined officers to scour local fields and farmland, and volunteers from cities more than 100 miles away arrived in Machynlleth to join their efforts.
As news of the disappearance spread nationally and internationally, so many prayed for April – a happy-go-lucky girl who was thriving despite suffering from a mild form of cerebral palsy. But she wouldn’t come home alive.
Police had already made an arrest.
Mark Bridger, a local father of six – matched the description April’s friend had given police. Plus, his car – a left-hand drive 4×4 – seemed to match the vehicle that had been seen whisking the schoolgirl away.
But, he was well-liked locally. Two of his children attended the same school as April.
Yet, under arrest Bridger, an alcoholic, told police he’d hit April with his car while driving drunk. He claimed he’d tried and failed to revive her.
But when police asked what he’d done with the little girl’s body, he claimed he couldn’t remember.
Bridger’s story didn’t ring true.
April’s friend had seen her willingly climb into Bridger’s car. And there was more evidence something more sinister had happened.
Bridger had changed his appearance between the time of April going missing and when he was arrested, a day later.
He’d shaved off his beard and cut his hair. He’d also sent his 4×4 to the garage.
Searching Bridger’s home police found it smelled strongly of cleaning products, and the wood burner was in use, making the house uncomfortably hot.
Computer experts examined Bridger’s laptop and found a stash of paedophilic material, including young girls being abused by adults. He’d collected pictures of girls killed in high profile murders, like Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
There were also innocent pictures of girls from Machynlleth, including April, taken from social media sites.
And while Bridger claimed April had never been to his house, traces of her blood were found in his bathroom, hall, and under the carpet in front of the wood burner. There were 17 fragments of bone found in the wood burner itself, and one in the bath.
It couldn’t be tested, but experts believed it could be from a child’s skull.
Confronted with this evidence, Bridger continued to lie and lie, extending the anguish of the Jones family.
The police search for April continued for seven months, but they were forced to give up, resigned to the fact they wouldn’t find April without Bridger’s help.
He appeared at Mold Crown Court in April 2013, and denied abduction, murder, and concealing, disposing of or destroying April’s body.
He stuck to his story, saying he’d killed April accidentally with this car.
But the prosecution claimed Bridger had taken April to a remote spot or to his own home to sexually assault her.
It’s believed April was killed at the cottage, and that Bridger used skills he’d learned working in an abattoir to dismember her. He then burned some of her body in his home and disposed of other parts in a river.
In May 2013, Mark Bridger was found guilty on all charges.
He was handed a whole life tariff by the judge, meaning he’d never be free.
Following the verdict, April’s parents Coral and Paul Jones, campaigned to help rid the internet of child abuse images.
In November 2013, Google and Microsoft agreed to block as many as 100,000 search terms that would otherwise return child abuse material.
The courageous family have continued to campaign for tougher sentences for those caught with child abuse images, and for sex offenders to remain on the register for life, as well as stricter policing by internet search engines.
Called April’s Law, it will be debated by parliament in March 2017.
A legacy of protecting other family’s from monsters like Bridger would be a fitting tribute to a little girl Britain will never forget.