Accused in court for April hearing

April Jones' body has never been found despite a major operation led by Dyfed Powys Police

Mark Bridger, who is accused of the murder of schoolgirl April Jones (Dyfed-Powys Police/PA)

First published in National News © by

The former lifeguard accused of killing schoolgirl April Jones has appeared in court at the start of his trial for murder.

Mark Bridger, 47, was arrested the day after five-year-old April vanished while playing on her bike near her home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, on October 1 last year.

Bridger, wearing a short-sleeved light blue shirt and striped tie, spoke only to confirm his name as he appeared in the dock at Mold Crown Court for the start of his trial, which is expected to proceed until the middle of June.

The defendant, who could be seen with a large tattoo on his left forearm, was flanked by two security guards as around 50 potential jurors were brought into the court room.

Trial judge Mr Justice Griffith Williams told them: "I don't know whether you have been reading the papers or listening to the news but if you have, you have probably worked out by now that I am about to start the trial which arises out of the alleged murder of April Jones in Machynlleth last October."

He added: "The defendant's name is Mark Bridger, he is obviously sitting in the dock. It may be as well that you have a look at him just to make sure he is not somebody who you know or who you think you know."

During the initial stages of the jury selection process, prospective members of the panel were read a list of more than 50 witnesses who are due to give evidence. The pool of potential jurors was also informed that the jury in the case will pay a visit to various sites in the Machynlleth area during the trial.

Asking the jury pool to consider any connections to Machynlleth which may prevent them from sitting on the jury, the trial judge added: "It is very important that no person on the jury has any present or past connection with the Machynlleth area, and certainly no connection which would cause any concern about that particular juror sitting on the case."

The disappearance of April, who had cerebral palsy, sparked a massive outpouring of support for her family, with hundreds of people joining the search. The youngster's body has never been found despite a major operation led by Dyfed Powys Police.

Bridger, of Ceinws, is charged with abducting and murdering April, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice. He pleaded not guilty to the allegations on January 14 at Mold Crown Court.

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