The Murder of April Sue-Lyn Jones

Mark Bridger, 46 abducted and murdered April Sue-Lyn Jones, 5, on October 1, 2012. He was convicted based on 17 bone fragments that were found in his cottage fireplace, along with additional DNA evidence discovered in his home and vehicle. Her remains have never been recovered.

April Sue-Lyn Jones

April Jones was born on April 4, 2007, in Machynlleth, Wales to Paul and Coral Jones. She has been described as a beautiful and very active little girl who loved school and playing with her friends. She loved swimming and participated in weekly swim lessons at the local recreation center. April was born with cerebral palsy, but her condition never stopped her from doing the things that she loved.

The Disappearance

On October 1, 2012, the Jones family had experienced a normal day. April attended school that day like she normally did. After school, April’s parents dropped her off at her swim lessons at the local recreation center while they went to her school’s parents’ event. When the event was finished, they picked up April and drove back to their home in the Bryn-y-Gog housing community. The family, along with April’s neighborhood best friend, had a spaghetti dinner, followed by the girls, watching the Disney movie Tangled. When the movie finished, April started begging her parents to allow her and her friend to go outside to ride their bikes. Her parents were reluctant, stating that it was too late and starting to get cold, but after a small tantrum, they relented and allowed the girls 20 minutes to play directly by the house. The Jones’ regularly check on the girls and last saw April riding her bike at 7:00 p.m. At 7:15 p.m. Coral, April’s mother, came outside to tell the girls that it was time to come inside. She discovered April was gone. April’s friend told her that a gray van had just picked April up and that April had a “happy face,” so the child didn’t think anything was wrong. The Jones’ looked around quickly but couldn’t find April. At 7:29 p.m., Dyfed-Powys Police were called. Authorities immediately labeled April’s disappearance as a “critical incident” and began a massive search.

The Search

Other parents and the greater Machynlleth community joined the search by 8:00 p.m., within 30 minutes of April’s disappearance. Additional people joined the search efforts throughout the night and into the next days. Police issued the first UK missing child alert system. April’s parents made pleas that were broadcasted on local television stations. A witness noticed that a gray Land Rover belonging to Mark Bridger had arrived at a neighboring cottage at approximately 8:30 p.m. The cottage was in the small village of Ceinws, roughly 3 miles from April’s neighborhood.

A search team looking for April Jones Source: The Irish Examiner

The next day at approximately 9:00 a.m., witnesses encountered Bridger walking near the Afon Dulas River while carrying a black garbage bag. They told him they were part of the search efforts that were looking for April and asked him why he wasn’t searching for her as well. He stated he was, before going back to his home and putting his Land Rover in his garage. Bridger is spotted as part of the search efforts within the following hour.

Police could interview April’s friend again and learn a few additional facts that they had not learned in earlier questioning. Those additional facts and the Ceinws neighborhood witness account of Bridger’s gray Land Rover provide a connection. Investigators label Bridger as a suspect and by 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, police enter Bridger’s cottage.

Bridger’s Cottage

Investigators immediately noticed that Bridger’s cottage was extremely warm and smelled strongly of cleaning products. They discovered 17 bone fragments in Bridger’s fireplace, which at the time they believed belonged to a young human skull. Police immediately arrested Bridger on suspicion of child abduction.

Crime scene technicians processed Bridger’s cottage, looking for further evidence that April had been there. They discovered blood on the underside of the carpet in front of the fireplace. The crime lab can quickly confirm that the blood is a match to April’s and Bridger is arrested on charges of first-degree murder.

Investigators discovered an extensive collection of photographs which centered on child sexual abuse and young girls that had been murdered during sex crimes. They also found a collection of photographs that Bridger had obtained from social media of neighborhood young girls, including three of April’s older teenage half-sisters. They were separated into separate folders on his computer. There were eight images of April found among the collection.

It was reported that when police processed Bridgers cottage, they discovered a VHS tape in his VHS player had been stopped on a vicious rape and murder scene of the popular 2009 re-made horror movie, The Last House on the Left. Investigators believed that this was the final moment that pushed Bridger to commit the crimes that he was being accused of. Investigators discovered a couple of pairs of handcuffs in the home, but Bridger would later state that he had no interest in any kind of bondage. They also discovered evidence of sexual activity in front of the fireplace and the back of his Land Rover, yet Bridger had no explanation as to how it got there.

Mark Bridger

Mark Bridger, 46, was a known resident to the Machynlleth area. He was divorced and a father of 6 (confirmed) children that he had had with four different women over the years. He had a very troubled past. Bridger’s family had severed ties with him years prior. His first criminal charge had stemmed from a failed attempt at robbing a post office with a firearm. He was sentenced to two years of probation. A previous friend had stated that Bridger thought of himself as a tough guy with a rough reputation. Allegedly, Bridger would make up and share stories to make himself appear tougher than he actually was. He also openly bragged that he had been a soldier, despite the fact that he had never been enlisted in the military. Bridger also gave himself the nickname, Buster. He worked odd jobs as a mechanic, a bartender, woodcutter and a chef. Bridger assisted local farmers in disposing of sheep carcasses after butchering. A co-worker would later offer testimony that Bridger was skilled in using both “skinning and boning knives.”

Mark Bridger

Bridger had many run-ins with police over the previous 10+ years prior to moving into the rented Ceinws cottage. Most of the encounters were associated with assault and battery. Investigators learned he had been dating a woman for several years, but she had severed their relationship just a few days before April had gone missing.

The Investigation and Determinations

Mark Bridger has never disclosed where he took April’s remains. Bridger explained to officers that he had struck April with his Land Rover while she was riding her bicycle and he panicked, which caused him to place her in his vehicle and leave the scene. He further stated that he did not know where her remains were because he couldn’t remember.

However, investigators and evidence determined that this was a lie. They believe they could piece together the series of events of the night that April Jones was abducted and murdered.

Mark Bridger's vehicle

According to investigators and court prosecutors, Bridger had been binge drinking, and over-medicating with antidepressants, for a few days prior as a result of his girlfriend breaking up with him. Witnesses place Bridger at the same school parents’ event as the Jones family, but they stated he had left early. Immediately after leaving the school, Bridger approached a couple of young children, hoping to lure them into his vehicle, but they had run away. Investigators believe that after driving around for a few hours, Bridger encountered April Jones. He lured her into his vehicle, drove her to a private location, sexually assaulted her in the back of his vehicle before making his way to his cottage. It is unsure if he murdered April in his vehicle or at his cottage, but an excessive amount of DNA evidence (semen and blood) suggests that he had sexual relations on the carpet in front of his fireplace. Investigators believe he burned April’s remains in his fireplace to destroy any evidence of his crimes. Skull fragments of a young child that had been found in his fireplace backed up this theory.

Bridger was then seen by witnesses the next morning, carrying a black trash bag next to the swift Afon Dulas River just before it flows into the River Dyfi. It is unknown what was in the bag as it has never been recovered. Bridger has never offered any further explanation regarding what was in the bag, how April’s DNA was in his cottage, and where her remains are located.

The Aftermath

On October 6, 2012, Mark Bridger was charged with abduction of a child. Prosecution added charges of murder, unlawful concealment, disposal of a body, and attempting to pervert the course of justice on October 8, 2012. On January 14, 2013, Bridger pleaded not guilty before the Mold Crown Court.

Bridger’s trial began on April 29, 2013. A month later, a jury found Mark Bridger guilty of the abduction and murder of April Jones. A judge gave him a whole life order prison sentence which equates to his whole life until his death.

On September 13, 2013, a funeral was held for April Jones, despite not having discovered her entire remains. She was laid to rest at a small cemetery in Machynlleth.

April Jones tombstone Source: Find a Grave

Two months later, Google and Bing search engines instituted software that blocked search results that depicted possible child abuse imagery, a cause that the Jones family had led.

On August 4, 2014, Bridgers cottage was purchased by the Welsh Government which promised to raze and dispose of the structure. The Jones family watched as the cottage was demolished by several companies, including Bond Demolition, just a few short months later, on November 14, 2014. The Welsh Government opted to not recycle the building materials, as was customary.

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