The Abduction and Murder of April Jones
A small village in Wales was horrified when 5-year-old April Jones was abducted, but what happened to her?
April Jones was born on April 4th 2007 to Paul and Corral Jones. Alongside her parents, she lived with her older siblings Jasmine and Harley on a small housing estate in Machynlleth, Wales. As a newborn, she was in intensive care as she was born 7 weeks premature. At this time she suffered a fit which resulted in her having cerebral palsy on the left-hand side of her body. Nonetheless, her family described her as extremely outgoing and desired to do everything all the other kids could do regardless of her condition.
Machynlleth was a small and quiet town that had a large sense of community. It felt like a safe place for all who lived there and many parents would allow their children to go out playing on their own. This protected community would soon see their perception was not a reality.
On Monday, October 1st, 2012, after school the family went to the local leisure centre for 5-year-old April’s swimming lessons. After their lessons, April and her friend went back to her house and Paul made dinner for the two girls before they went outside to play on their bikes.
Soon after Paul and Corral sent her older brother Harley to go and get April because it was time for her to come home, however when he returned a few minutes later he was frantically screaming to his parents ‘they have taken her, someone has taken April’. Harley told his parents she had got into a van and been taken away. Immediately after hearing their 5-year-old daughter had been abducted, the parents contacted the police.
Within minutes the police arrived at the Jones’ home and began trying to piece together what had happened to begin searching for April. Meanwhile, her mother began calling relatives and friends informing them about April’s disappearance this included April’s older sister Jasmine who was at the youth club at the time. Once Jasmine heard the news she sprinted through the streets to get home, where she was met with crowds of people knocking on doors around the estate trying to assist with the search.
As word spread the whole community came to assist the police in the search for April. People went out with torches on the pitch-black October night, knocking on doors of homes in the neighbourhood, looking into garages, down streets and alleyways to try and find her.
To get April’s face out as much as possible her disappearance was posted all over social media so people knew to look out for her. Search parties were set up and people began looking into local forests because people were so worried about her. There was a great sense of urgency to find April as it was extremely cold, dark and raining which were not good conditions for anyone to be missing in, especially not a 5-year-old girl.
As time went on and the search went deeper into the early hours of the next morning, police had to order volunteers to stop looking as the cold, wet weather was not suitable conditions for volunteers to be in, but they refused and insisted they would not stop looking. With a heavy heart, April’s mother Correl recalls that night saying ‘there is great pride in how many people helped us to look for April’.
Whilst the search continued police spoke to April’s 7-year-old friend who was playing with her at the time and witnessed the abduction. She told police that April willingly got into the car but she got in on the wrong side which indicated to the police April’s abductor was a left-handed driver. When the police notified the parents about this new information they knew who it was.
In Machynlleth, left-handed drivers were extremely rare at the time, so the locals, as well as the parents, could only think of one person who owned one of these cars.
The person in question was named Mark Bridger, who quickly became the prime suspect in the investigation. He was 46-years-old and had lived in the town for years, along with his border collie dog. He was well known amongst the local had six children from four different women, although none of his children lived with him a few of them attended the same primary school as April Jones.
When police began looking into Mark they found several previous convictions for crimes such as theft, possession of a firearm, criminal damage, driving without insurance and domestic abuse but all of these convictions had taken place several years before. He appeared to be a very inconsistent person; unable to hold a job down for longer than a year and several previous relationships that never seemed to work out. The day before April’s disappearance his current girlfriend had split up to him, potentially because of his alcoholism. They also found what car he drove. A left-handed land rover.
Police knew they needed to monitor Mark as a key person of interest in the investigation. On the morning of October 2nd 2012, the day after April’s abduction, Mark was spotted by a police helicopter walking his dog but police found something very off with this. The entire time Mark did not look into the sky at the helicopter, which is a natural human reaction to hearing a plane or helicopter in the sky. This showed police that he was aware he was possibly being watched and seemed like he was concealing something.
During this time police officers were sent to his home to see whether April was being kept there alive. Upon entering Marks home police noticed it was extremely hot and there was a roaring fire in his fireplace even though he was not home. The strong smell of bleach littered the air and it was difficult not to notice his home had been meticulously cleaned only moments before.
This evidence along with his suspicious behaviour earlier that day and his ownership of the left-handed car led to the arrest of Mark Bridger on October 2nd 2012 on suspicion of abduction. The moment he was arrested he said “I know what this is about”.
During questioning, he admitted to involvement in April’s disappearance.
He claimed before April vanished he accidentally knocked her over whilst he was driving so he decided to pick her up and put her in his car because her injuries were so bad he attempted to do CPR but quickly realised it was too late. His version of events completely contradicts April’s 7-year-old friends account of the abduction as she had told police she willingly got in the car, there was no mention of an accident.
As he had admitted to being responsible, police asked Mark where the body was. He insisted throughout the day of the disappearance he had been drinking, alluding to the fact he was too intoxicated to remember where he put her as he was in a panicked, drunken state when he disposed of her body. Although police did not believe Mark’s version of events, he had no reason to lie about her being dead so they informed the family about this new information. Understandably, they were shocked and deeply devastated but longed to know what truly had happened to their daughter.
With that, the police’s hunt for April’s body began with specially trained cadaver dogs, searching ditches, rivers and forests whilst Mark remained in custody. At this time, forensic examinations were being carried out in Mark’s cottage home. The extensive examination deemed there was evidence of a cleanup at the property particularly in the bathroom area.
Notably, when police first entered Mark’s home they noticed how hot it was due to the fire, so the forensic team inspected the fireplace and found bone fragments. They were forensically tested and came back as human bone fragments which police believed belonged to April Jones. Indicating Mark had killed April and disposed of her body by burning it in his fireplace. Police theorized after he burned her body he disposed of the ashes and bone fragments around several locations in Machynlleth such as rivers, ditches and forest areas.
Whilst forensics continued to look throughout the cottage, small blood particles were found but because of their size, they could not be linked to another person. Nonetheless, a substantial amount of blood was found by the fireplace, indicating April had been subject to significant harm in that cottage. All of Mark’s possessions were seized, including his phone and laptop, to be searched and examined. Whilst looking through Mark’s laptop it provided police with a probable motive and an answer they had feared the most.
His laptop history revealed on the day of April’s disappearance he had been sending messages to multiple women online that he did not know asking to meet them for a drink. In the hours before the abduction, Mark Bridger was looking at indecent images of children, watching violent pornographic videos and looking at cartoons of children being molested by adults. He also had saved pictures of April and her older sister Jasmine saved on his laptop to view whenever he wanted.
After Mark’s disturbing secrets were revealed it completely discredited him, proving the ‘accident’ story was a concrete lie and his motive for April’s murder was probably sexual.
Later on, it emerged 2 years before the murder, 44-year-old Mark had previously attempted to contact April’s older sister Jasmine when she was 14-years-old on Facebook. She had no idea who he was so asked him why he was trying to message her, to which he replied: “I am friends with your Dad Paul”. Jasmine immediately asked her father who this man was that was claiming to be his friend and he was perplexed as they knew each other cordially, occasionally saying “hi” when passing in the street but nothing more.
Despite all the mounting evidence against him, Mark was still sticking to the story that the death was an accident but the police still had enough evidence to charge him with the abduction and murder of April Jones.
The trial commenced in the Spring of April 29th, 2013 where Mark pleaded not guilty and took to the stand sticking to his accident story. The jury was presented with all the evidence against him which included; blood evidence, bone fragments and his obsession with child pornography.
Unbelievably he attempted to convince the jury the reason he had these indecent images on his laptop was that he was trying to teach his children the different stages of growing and developing. Genuinely thinking the jury would be convinced he viewed violent porn to teach his children about puberty.
On May 13th 2013, 46-year-old Mark Bridger was found guilty of the abduction and murder of April as well as guilty for perverting the course of justice by disposing and concealing of her body. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation he should never be released. To this day he has never admitted guilt or detailed what happened that day. So her family can only speculate and never truly know.
On September 26th 2013, five days before the first anniversary of April’s death her funeral was held and hundreds of people gathered to support the family and pay their respects.
In November 2013, Mark’s cottage was bought by the Welsh Government and demolished. The family have said this has been a great relief for them so every time they pass through their area they are not constantly reminded of the place April was killed.
In 2017 her parents started a campaign that received over 100,000 signatures called April’s Law which called for the enforcement of harsher sentences for sex offenders and for sex offenders to be on the register for life. It also requires search engines such as Google and Bing to stop allowing pedophiles to easily view indecent images of children and child pornography. You can watch the parliamentary debate here:
Archived Petition: April's Law
We the undersigned call on the prime minister to make all sex offenders remain on the register for life no matter the…
“We have found ourselves in this situation where people will listen to us
or sympathise with us… in Aprils memory, we should try and push the law and make the public aware of the paedophiles out there” — Paul Jones