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Mark Leonard BRIDGER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Child killer - Paedophile
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 1, 2012
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: November 6, 1965
Victim profile: April Jones, 5
Method of murder: Unknown (the body was never found)
Location: Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole-life tariff on May 30, 2013

photo gallery


Murder of April Jones

April Jones, (4 April 2007 – c. 1 October 2012) from Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, aged five, disappeared on 1 October 2012, after being sighted willingly getting into a vehicle near her home.

Her disappearance generated a large amount of national and international press coverage. A 46-year-old local man, Mark Bridger, was subsequently arrested and charged with Jones's abduction and murder.

On 30 May 2013, Bridger was found guilty of April's abduction and murder, in addition to perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the trial judge ordering that he never be released from prison.


On 3 October 2012, April Jones's mother made an appeal for information about her daughter. The following day Prime Minister David Cameron also issued an appeal to the public, commenting, "clearly having this happen to you, and the fact that she suffers from cerebral palsy, something I know a little about from my own children, only makes this worse. My appeal would be to everyone. If you know anything, if you saw anything, heard anything, have any ideas you can bring forward, talk to the police." Cameron said that his "heart goes out" to her family, particularly as Jones suffered from cerebral palsy—the same condition that his son, Ivan, succumbed to in 2009.

In the days following her disappearance, a large search operation for the girl was mounted around the Machynlleth area, involving police and search and rescue teams using specialised equipment, as well as hundreds of volunteers.

On 12 December, police stated that the search for Jones would continue into 2013. On 27 March 2013, police revealed that they would call off the search at the end of April, and on 22 April, police confirmed that the search had officially ended. The police stated that "a reactive team of specialist officers are available to respond to any new information that is received." This was the largest missing person search in UK police history.

Murder inquiry

On 5 October 2012, police officially designated the case a murder inquiry. Sky News presenter Kay Burley was accused of insensitivity after breaking the news of Jones' probable death live on-air to volunteers who had been searching for her. The interviewees were unaware the case had changed from a search for a missing person into a murder inquiry.

On 6 October, local man Mark Bridger was charged with child abduction, murder, and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He appeared before magistrates at Aberystwyth on 8 October, where he was additionally charged with the unlawful concealment and disposal of a body. He was remanded into custody and held at HMP Manchester pending an appearance at Caernarfon Crown Court, which occurred on 10 October via videolink.

On 14 January 2013, at Mold Crown Court, Bridger pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Jones, but accepted that he was "probably responsible" for her death. The trial was to begin on 25 February at Mold Crown Court, but it was adjourned until 29 April at the request of Bridger's defence team in order to make further inquiries.

Mark Bridger

Mark Leonard Bridger was born at the War Memorial Hospital in Carshalton, London, on 6 November 1965, the middle of three children of Pamela and policeman Graham Bridger. He has an older sister and younger brother.[28] He grew up in a semi-detached house in Wallington, London. He attended John Ruskin High School in Croydon, leaving with seven CSEs.

Bridger had a history of legal infractions. When he was 19, he was convicted of firearms offences and theft. He moved to Wales in the 1980s, and there he was convicted of criminal damage, affray, and driving without insurance in 1991. The next year, he was convicted again, for driving whilst disqualified and without insurance. In 2004, he was convicted of battery and threatening behaviour; in 2007 he would receive his fifth conviction, this time for assault.

Bridger's work history is varied, having worked as an abattoir worker, hotel porter, firefighter, lifeguard, mechanic, and welder. He has six children by four women, including two by his wife, whom he married in 1990.


The trial of Mark Bridger began on 29 April 2013 before judge Mr. Justice Griffith-Williams. On 24 May, the BBC reported that the defence case had ended, and the judge would begin to sum up the case on Tuesday 28 May, after the bank holiday. On 29 May the judge concluded his summation, and then ordered the jury to retire to consider its verdicts.

On 30 May 2013, Bridger was found guilty of abduction, murder, and perverting the course of justice. Later that day, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole-life tariff, having been called a "pathological liar" and "a paedophile" by the judge.

After the verdict, it was revealed that Bridger had confessed to the Strangeways' prison chaplain that he had disposed of April's body in the fast-flowing River Dovey, which flows past Bridger's house before terminating in the sea near Aberdyfi. Dyfed-Powys Police have said they doubt Bridger's claims and believe he scattered April's remains across the countryside near his house.

In July 2013, while serving his sentence, Bridger was attacked by a fellow prisoner with an improvised shank, resulting in facial and throat injuries, for which he received stitches. In December 2013, Bridger launched an appeal against his whole-life sentence, but dropped the appeal in January 2014.

Facebook cases

On 8 October 2012, a 19-year-old male from Chorley in Lancashire pleaded guilty to sending a grossly offensive message and for posting comments about Jones and Madeleine McCann on his Facebook page, an offence under section 127 (1)a of the Communications Act 2003. He was sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment in a Young Offender Institution.

In a separate case, an 18-year-old male from Worcester, who posted his opinions about the case on his Facebook page, was given a six-week suspended prison sentence on 7 November, and ordered to do 200 hours of community service.



Although her body was never found, the funeral service for April Jones was held in Machynlleth on 26 September 2013.

Changes to web search engines

In November 2013, partly after campaigning by Jones's parents, the search engines Google and Bing modified their systems to block results from searches aimed at producing child abuse images.

House in Machynlleth

On 4 August 2014, it was announced that the cottage in Ceinws, Powys, where Jones is believed to have been killed, had been purchased by the Welsh government for £149,000. The cottage was demolished in November 2014. April's family watched the house being demolished.

April Jones murder: Mark Bridger told prison chaplain he dumped body in river

By Sam Malone -

May 30, 2013

Details of killer's prison admission revealed after jury convicts Bridger of murder of five-year-old April Jones.

Mark Bridger probably sexually assaulted April Jones before brutally murdering and dismembering her body, disposing of her at various locations, police believe.

It comes as we can now reveal Bridger admitted to a prison chaplain that he dumped April’s body in the fast flowing river which runs behind his house.

The admission during a counselling session, which was not relied on by prosecutors during his trial, was made while Bridger was being held in HMP Strangeways following his arrest.

Exact details have not been released but reporters who attended the hearing at Mold Crown Court listened to legal arguments in which the admission was discussed.

Detective Superintendent Andy John, the officer responsible for the case, admitted no-one will ever truly know what Bridger did to the vulnerable cerebral palsy sufferer in his Ceinws house and how he disposed of her body afterwards unless he tells the truth.

But the investigator believes his officers gathered enough evidence to “hypothesise” about what happened on the night of October 1.

When asked what he thought Bridger had done, the detective said there was evidence to support the fact April had been “possibly sexually assaulted before she suffered significant harm”.

He added the forensic evidence also suggested there may have been “a level of dismemberment in the house” which would have then resulted in the “deposition of the body or body parts at various locations”.

Tragically, despite the massive police search operation which followed April’s abduction, her body has never been found.

It is this fact, that April’s body has never been recovered, that made the investigation into her disappearance all the more difficult.

But following the successful prosecution of 47-year-old Bridger, DS John spoke freely about how his team cracked the case.

He described how, after April’s mother Coral raised the alarm, the only information his team had to work with was a seven-year-old child’s account.

Given the urgency of the situation DS John made the unprecedented decision to instigate the Child Rescue Alert – something which to his knowledge had never been done before.

The challenge there was to ensure the description provided by April’s best friend was accurate and reliable enough to release to the public.

But soon after having instigated the CRA the detective knew he had made the right move, with officers handling more than 1,200 calls and creating 4,700 messages within the first 24 hours.

Within hours after April was abducted hundreds of locals took to the streets and the surrounding area to help with the search.

And while their actions have been praised, their absence from their homes created an unwanted hurdle for police to overcome.

“The challenge for us on the night in question, because social media was up and running very quickly, is that the majority of people in Machynlleth were out wanting to assist the family and ourselves in searching for April,” DS John said.

“So in many respects it’s the people that we needed to speak to to see if they had seen something were not there and available.”

As a result, it was not until around 9am the following day, that detectives had learnt of Bridger’s presence on the Bryn-y-Gog estate at the time the abduction had taken place.

DS John also said he felt it was important to point out that Bridger was well known in the area and “did not look out of place”.

“That is why we did not get that information from the public in terms of someone standing out as a potential suspect,” he added.

With the clock ticking and the knowledge that most child kidnap victims are killed within hours of their abduction weighing heavily on his mind, DS John quickly set about establishing who the suspect they were dealing with was.

“We knew from the outset we had very little time to play with in terms of trying to find April alive and well and so finding out who he was, what his background was, where he lived, what vehicles he had access to was obviously a priority and we did it as quickly as we could.”

Eventually, six hours after he was identified as a suspect, Bridger was arrested on foot walking between Machynlleth and his village of Ceinws.

But despite having him in custody, officers were still no closer to finding April as even though Bridger admitted to killing the youngster, he claimed he could not remember what he had done with her body.

As a result officers acted with haste without fear of contaminating anything which may potentially be used as evidence against Bridger.

“The overriding objective from an investigative prospective was always to find April and it’s important to point out that as this was a crime in action it’s very different to most crimes that we deal with,” DS John said.

“The priority was to find April, the secondary objective was to preserve and secure evidence and it’s important to point that out because when we were going into the address we were obviously going in trying to find Bridger and at the same time we were looking for April and on that basis the officers were not forensically aware, they were very much going in, kicking doors in, in order to try and find a child.”

Back at Aberystwyth police station – where Bridger was being held – detectives conducted an “urgent interview” with Bridger in which claimed he accidentally knocked April down with his Land Rover.

It was at that point that DS John took the decision to inform the family of all the evidence as it developed during the course of the investigation.

“It is a balance because you have to maintain the integrity of the investigation but equally the last thing I ever wanted was for the family to find out from a third person some significant information about their daughter,” the detective said.

“As soon as we had that initial version of events I took the decision to explain to the family that night that everything was pointing to the fact that April was dead and that they needed to know that at that point so I could try and manage and support them going forward.

“They were understandably extremely traumatised, deeply upset and shocked because obviously their hope is that we would have found April alive and well and that the matters could have been resolved fairly quickly.

“Obviously that wasn’t the case and as a result they needed a significant amount of support from that moment on.”

Two police family liaison officers were subsequently assigned to support them and to help them come to terms with any developments.

Extremely doubtful of Bridger’s account and without April’s body, DS John and his team had to find other ways of building their case against him.

And so it was that the focus of the investigation shifted to the forensic examinations.

“The biggest examination from a forensic perspective was obviously at the house,” DS John said.

“We had to work through the house in a methodical way which took a significant amount of time but in the end we recovered some significant evidence.”

Jurors heard throughout the trial how April’s blood was found splattered throughout the picturesque cottage with a large concentration on the living room floor. The were also repeatedly told of the library of indecent images of children Bridger had saved on his computer.

It was these forensic findings, DS John said, which led to Bridger’s re-arrest.

“When we recovered blood that we were able to match with April’s DNA, it was at that point that the investigation moved from one of abduction to one of a murder investigation and it was from that and some of the other developments [such as the material on his computer] that we took the decision to arrest Bridger for murder.”

It was sometime later that fragments of bone believed to be from a child’s skull were found in the ashes of Bridger’s fireplace.

And while no blood was found on any of the arsenal of blades Bridger kept at his rented three-bedroom home, it is because of these findings that DS John believes April may have been cut up before being dumped in the surrounding countryside.

He added it is because April’s body has been dismembered that her body has never been found.

“I think the body has been dismembered and various parts of the remains have been placed in different areas,” he said.

“That’s possibly why, because they are so small and damaged, that we’ve had so much difficulty in actually locating them.”

When asked where he thinks Bridger would have disposed of April’s body, DS John added: “Clearly he’s got windows of opportunity between the time of the abduction and the time of his arrest so we haven’t been able to rule out 100% that he’s travelled a significant distance to dispose of parts of the body.

“We can’t rule out parts would’ve gone into the river, we can’t rule out certain parts haven’t been burnt based on the remains in the fire albeit it’s important to note that scientist have said that had significant parts of April’s remains been burnt on the fire there would have been an expectation to have found more evidence.”

Attempting to explain the bone fragment findings, DS John suggested they may have found their way into the fire during the clean-up.

“What we’ve recovered from the fire, the fragments seem to point towards parts of the clean up operation which has taken place with Bridger and any remains recovered from the floor might have been put on the fire with various other things.”

April Jones murder: How Mark Bridger modelled himself on world's most notorious killers

By Sam Malone -

May 30, 2013

Detectives behind conviction of April Jones' killer detail his fascination with figures including Ian Huntley and Ted Bundy.

Mark Bridger is an “evil and manipulative” paedophile who may have modelled himself on other murderers such as Soham child killer Ian Huntley and American serial killer Ted Bundy, the detective who led the investigation into April Jones’ murder has said.

Detective Superintendent Andy John told how the evidence found on the 47-year-old’s computer leads him to conclude Bridger may have “borrowed the style” of other notorious murders when abducting and murdering the five-year-old.

And such were the similarities between April’s case and that of Soham victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, that the senior investigating officer met with the officers who put Ian Huntley behind bars.

“You can never be certain on these things but on the basis of what we know about our case and other cases such as that of Ian Huntley, there are elements which you could argue are similar,” DS John said.

“We know he has had an interest in other murders not only in the UK but further afield and it’s possible he may have borrowed their style.”

The senior detective told how, because of the apparent comparisons between Bridger’s crimes and those committed by Huntley in 2002, he met with retired Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Stevenson.

“It was some weeks after we charged Mark Bridger but it was clearly to look at an investigative perspective how they managed their investigation and secondly to look at any similarities in the circumstances presented,” DS John said.

“I met him face to face, it was very much for me to share with him what we were dealing with, what the key issues were for us, what the challenges were, and to hear from him how they approached their investigation, how they approached the challenges and what they learnt from it in order for us to try and follow a model and stop us from doing things that perhaps hadn’t worked out so well for them.”

The detective also said now that Bridger has “committed the most horrific crimes” he should be regarded as “extremely dangerous”.

“Based on what we have established from the investigation – particularly around the computer material – that for me presents real evidence that we have got an individual who is a paedophile and now that he has committed the most horrific crimes he clearly he is extremely, extremely dangerous.”

During the course of Bridger’s trial it emerged he kept photographs of Soham victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in a file on his computer.

Also stored were pictures of Caroline Dickinson, a British 13-year-old who was murdered in France in July 1996; Jessica Lunsford, a nine-year-old murdered in Florida, the United States, in 2005; and Esra Akyuz, a six-year-old Turkish girl who was murdered in 2001.

While jurors heard how Bridger performed searches on American serial killer Ted Bundy – who kidnapped, raped and murdered dozens of women during the 1970s – and the murder of Jamie Bulger.

It is only now that the trial has concluded that we can also report how jurors were so revolted at the thought of Bridger getting gratification at seeing these images in court, that they asked the judge to stop him viewing them.

And so it was that the judge banned the paedophile from looking at the computer evidence, ordering the court's computer screens to be turned off or moved out of his line of vision.

What can also be reported for the first time, and what the jury were not told during the course of the trial, is that inside Bridger's VCR machine at the time of his arrest was a recording of a violent rape scene from a film.

Not only was the video positioned in the middle of the scene from cult-film The Last House on the Left, but Bridger had recorded the clip twice over.

While admitting to the fact he could never be certain as to Bridger’s motives, DS John said he believed Bridger’s may have used his research to plan his attack.

“It’s very difficult to work out what this man is thinking,” DS John said.

“He may be of the mindset that he’s used some of the material that’s come out of those investigations.”

With this in mind, the detective said he believed Bridger was trying to build himself a reputation and that he even enjoyed being known for his actions.

“You can’t help thinking that the fact that during the trial he’s been prepared to take to the witness stand and spend some time in the witness box trying to justify exactly what’s gone on in this case, that he sees himself as notorious,” he added.

Throughout his trial Bridger repeatedly broke down in tears and while giving evidence his voice regularly faltered.

But this was all part of the plan to convince the jury of his innocence – a cold and calculated plan which according to DS John came easy to Bridger.

“It was evident from the investigation and throughout the course of the trial that this is an individual who fantasies and who has lied to people for many years and that came through.

“What was evident is that Bridger is somebody who can go through various emotions very quickly and move from what appears to be a very emotional individual into somebody who is in control.

“I would question somebody who does that that frequently because the fact is, it is likely to be all an act.”

The performance of this act was one example of Bridger’s need to have control over everything in his life.

And it is when he lost this control that DS John feels Bridger was prompted to carry out the horrific acts he did on October 1.

When asked how a middle-aged man with no previous sexual offences against his name can be moved to kidnap and murder a vulnerable child, the detective said he thought it was due Bridger’s feelings of helplessness.

Jurors were told during the trial how Bridger had recently broken up with his girlfriend and how he had money worries.

And it is these factors, combined with his “unhealthy interest” in child pornography and historic murder cases that led him to act, DS John said.

“I think that Mark Bridger at that point in his life was losing control.

“He’s somebody who likes to operate with a lot of control and clearly he was losing it all at that point, he’s clearly got the unhealthy interest in children and I think with other issues he had at the time he was at a point when he was going to commit the serious offences that he did and it is just unfortunate that April Jones happened to be in that location at that time on that evening.”

Mark Bridger: The true picture of the violence-obsessed fantasist who murdered April Jones

By Sam Malone -

May 30, 2013

Father-of-six spun a 'web of lies' about a glorious military career to hide a secret life characterised by an obsession with rape and murder.

Child murderer Mark Bridger is an alcoholic fantasist who had an obsession with child pornography, rape and murder.

The 47-year-old, who was today found guilty of the sexually motivated abduction and murder of schoolgirl April Jones, was to many people in Machynlleth a charming, charasmatic and courteous man.

But behind closed doors the father-of-six was a paedophile who built up his own personal library of indecent images of youngsters which he would pore over for hours at a time.

Using the internet he researched historic child murder cases such as that of Holly Wells, Jessica Chapman and Caroline Dickinson - the victims of notorious Soham murderer Ian Huntley and the British schoolgirl murdered in France - while he also downloaded cartoon animations of violent child rapes in addition to pictures of dead children.

Throughout his trial the prosecution accused him of playing a "cruel game" by lying about the fact he could not remember what he had done with April.

Yet lying was nothing unusual for Bridger - a man whose private life was a far cry from the act he had spent decades carefully honing and presenting to the people of Machynlleth.

A well known face in the town, he was seen as a harmless odd-jobs man who once served in the armed forces who could often be found having a drink in one of the local pubs.

He was a man who provoked sympathy for the apparent suicide of his mother who he said took her own life after his father died of a heart attack.

But the truth is, not only are his parents alive, but he had never served in the SAS or any other arm of the forces and it was ultimately through his trial that his capacity to live a "lie and a fantasy" was exposed.

Jurors saw through his attempts to cover up what he did to April as they also did with his attempts at justifying his hoard of pornographic images of children.

The former slaughterman tried to explain away his vile library by saying he wanted to learn how his daughter would develop and that he had written to pornography companies abroad to complain about the images he kept as evidence against them.

Despite his carefully hidden depravities and fondness for alcohol, Bridger did not lack social skills and was known to have had a number of a relationships with local women.

Indeed he was in a relationship right up until the day before he brutally murdered cerebal palsy sufferer April - only for his girlfriend Vicky Fenner to break up with him via text.

Some in the local community saw Bridger as a bit of a womaniser but it emerged during his trial others thought his intentions more sinister on the basis that he had "a history of relationships with young mothers".

His base need for sexual gratification was more than apparent following the end of his relationship with Ms Fenner. Instead of grieving for the loss of his companion he scoured social netwrok sites contacting several women pleading for "no strings" fun.

Perhaps the most disturbing secret Bridger kept hidden though was his attraction to local girls.

In addition to the catalogue of indecent images found on his computer was a store of Facebook-style folders of youngsters from the Machynlleth area.

Among them were photos of April's 13-year-old and 16-year-old half-sisters - some of which also featured the vulnerable five-year-old.

And poignantly, two years before he murdered April, Bridger had even tried to make friends with the older sister who he described as very pretty with potential to become a model.

The pervert searched online for “naked five-year-old girls” and carefully allocated folders on his laptop under the headings of “Plus 10”, “Minus 10” and “Clothes”.

Such was his interest in prepubescent girls that just hours before he snatched and killed April he approached a 10-year-old and asked if she wanted to come for a sleepover with his daughter at his house.

Perhaps surprisingly, those in the community who had regular contact with Bridger said there was nothing particularly remarkable about him.

He was well-known for his string of failed relationships - he fathered six children with four different women - and for his tendency for changing jobs.

During his time in Machynlleth he worked as a lifeguard at the local leisure centre, at an abattoir, as a welder, a kitchen hand, a bouncer and was most recently working as a labourer helping with the renovation of a hotel in Ceinws.

Yet his former employers and workmates described him as an affable hard worker whose worse trait was his habit of being “a little light-fingered”.

Those who got close to Bridger on the other hand, painted a more sinister picture of him.

The father of one of his former partners, who does not want to be named, said he had a hidden “dark side”.

“I’ve known Mark Bridger for over 20 years and I do not have a kind word to say about him,” he said.

“He was terrible to my daughter and her kids – they lived in fear of him.

“He had a dark side but he hid it well, although I saw through it.

“I always knew there was something sinister about him but no one was ever prepared to listen to me, they knew it too, they could sense it I think, but preferred to look at him as ‘good old Mark’, one of the lads.

“Well he wasn’t, and I have always known he wasn’t, he is a an angry, violent man and I had been warning people round here about him for years."

He added: “Prison is too good for the likes of him, he was evil hiding in plain view.

“It was just a matter of time until he did something terrible.”

Bridger, who had lived in Machynlleth for more than 20 years, was known to police as a petty criminal.

But while he had string of minor convictions and had served a small amount of time in prison, there was nothing that would have lead police to him in the initial hunt for April’s abductor.

One man who did see the violent side of Bridger is local businessman Mark Hodge.

Mr Hodge, 56, was recovering from cancer when Bridger attacked him on his own doorstep in the middle of the night.

Bridger turned up at his house at 1am and began shouting – angry about a dispute over a mechanical digger and at the entrepreneur’s parents attempts to get him to pay his rent for the house which they had leased out to him.

“It wasn’t very nice at all,” he said.

“I’d just got over cancer and I was still ill with rheumatoid arthritis so he knew I couldn’t handle myself.

“He smashed me in the mouth. I’d gone to bed at midnight and my wife was still up watching a film when it happened.”

Bridger was prosecuted for the assault and received a four-month suspended sentence at Welshpool Magistrates Court.

One of his former neighbours also told how he kept an arsenal of weapons above his fireplace in a property he rented in the nearby village of Llanbrynmair.

Paul Edwards, 22, said Bridger was also known for his heavy drinking during the day and could often be seen drinking cans of cider in his garden.

“I went in his house once and he had guns in a cabinet.

“There was a Samurai sword on the fireplace.”

Mr Edwards added: “Mark was definitely alcohol dependent. He used to drink Strongbow a lot during the day and I understand he was very depressed.

“He came across as a nice person but not everyone knows the other side of him. There was always something mysterious about Mark.

“He was strange.”

According to another Llanbrynmair neighbour, Bridger was later evicted from the house after the owner of the property took exception to the chickens he kept.

But while Bridger showed parts of his “dark side”, even those who knew him well did expect him to be capable of abducting and murdering a child.

His former friend Gwyn Pugh, who worked as a bouncer with Bridger, said: “I’ve known Mark for years and I struggle to believe he could hurt a child.

“I used to work on the doors with him in and around Mach and he was very useful to have round too.

“He had a bit of a temper on him yeah and I know he got into a bit of bother with the law over the years but the idea he could kill a little girl is too much to imagine.”

He added: “It is not the Mark I have known for so many years and it is not the Mark that people in Mach have known either.

“He had a temper yeah, but so do many people, he was always a nice, quiet guy and everyone who knew him, liked him.

“The idea he could do something like this is a unimaginable.”

When he couldn't control his women any more, Mark Bridger set his sights on little girls

  • Mark Bridger had a history of womanising and domestic abuse

  • He targeted young single women and moved into their homes

  • Bridger was known as 'Billy Bulls******' for the amount of lies he told

  • Claimed he used to be in the Army and was a survival expert

  • Fathered six children by four women and then abandoned them

By Paul Harris for the Daily Mail

May 30, 2013

They had scoured every inch of the town, an entire community banding together to find April Jones.

But one man among the hundreds out searching that day knew precisely where she was.

Her blood had not even dried on the floor of his home when he changed into camouflage clothes and walked calmly towards the market town of Machynlleth.

He could, of course, have shut himself away in the rented, woodside cottage where he took April the previous evening. But so many people had turned out to look for her that his absence would have aroused suspicion – especially because Bridger had long-standing links with her family.

Friends and acquaintances had already joined the search, as would his estranged son and at least one of his many former girlfriends. What could appear more natural than to be seen with the search parties?

Like just about every other aspect of his life, it was a sham. For Mark Leonard Bridger, we now know, was a dangerous and manipulative paedophile who fantasised about local schoolgirls, downloaded child porn and created a photo gallery of youngsters on his computer.

April was there, in a Facebook photo that showed her smiling beside one of her teenage half-sisters. On the evening of October 1, their paths would fatally cross.

The story Bridger concocted about running April over and losing all recollection of what he did with her body was as ludicrous as it was incredible. When interviewed by police, he even wove in some colourful fiction about his background.

By his various accounts he was a Royal Marine who served in Afghanistan, an IRA target in Northern Ireland, an SAS-trained veteran, survival expert and hunter, a mercenary in Angola, a doctor of marine biology. He was none of these.

He never had any military service and the stories he spun about being shot in the back, or being invalided out of the Army after smashing two vertebrae in a parachute jump, were simply more lies.

The doctorate? He bought the worthless qualification online, he once admitted, to enhance his credit rating. ‘Dr Mark Bridger’ was the name on the credit card he proudly showed off.

The real Mark Bridger was a womaniser who beat his girlfriends, fathered and abandoned a succession of children and groomed his way into April’s family to win her trust. The sole, constant thread that ran through his life was deceit. Not everyone was taken in.

‘We used to call him Billy Bulls***,’ said Geraint Vince, who was Bridger’s boss six years ago at a welding company before sacking him for fiddling his hours. ‘He was a compulsive liar who tried to get people to like him by creating elaborate stories about his past. He used to lie so much, I think he actually believed it himself.’

A key element of Bridger’s role in the April Jones tragedy is the kaleidoscope of relationships that revolved around him wherever he settled.

Several girlfriends or partners had links to the estate where April’s family lived, one in a home just 50 yards away, another with family connections there.

The Jones and Bridger children played or went to school together; some of the parents’ former or subsequent partners knew each other. His connection to the Jones family goes back decades.

Bridger was born in 1965 in Surrey, the son of City of London police officer Graham Bridger and his wife Pamela.

His CSE school grades would have been enough to allow him to join the police but he didn’t follow his father’s footsteps. Instead he dropped out of an engineering course before training as a fireman in London.

He left the service before qualifying, claiming he had made the wrong career choice. In fact he was about to get two years’ probation at the Old Bailey for possessing a firearm, theft, and obtaining property by deception. He was also in trouble with his relationships.

Deborah Verona, from Lambeth, south London, was 19 when in 1986 she gave birth to Steven, the first of Bridger’s six known children by four different partners.

Bridger, then 20, abandoned her and left her to bring up the baby. He fled to Blaenau Ffestiniog, in Snowdonia, after falling out with his parents over access to their new grandson.

He told acquaintances there that his father died from a heart attack and his grief-stricken mother committed suicide. He created the persona of ‘survival expert’, sleeping in a tent.

Someone who got to know him recalled: ‘He didn’t really know what he was doing. He tried hunting rabbits but he wasn’t any good at it. It was all part of the fantasy life he was living.’

It wasn’t long before he found someone to impress. He got Keeley Reynolds pregnant at 17 and quickly became violent, causing her almost to lose the baby by punching her in the stomach.

Bridger vanished when he heard Keeley’s father was coming to get him. He hitch-hiked in 1989 to Machynlleth, boasting that he had been ‘run out of town’ after getting a girl pregnant. He was certainly proud of his ability to charm the opposite sex.

His conquests were usually years younger than him, some in their mid-teens. He became particularly attracted to the vulnerability of single young mothers whose partners had walked out on them.

‘They were his meal ticket,’ a former friend said. ‘He’d upset so many landlords by being a bad tenant, he’d been blacklisted. So these women were ideal for him. They had their own home and he’d worm his way in within weeks.

‘The pattern was almost always the same though. He was possessive and controlling and before long he was knocking them about.’

In 1990 he married Julie Williams, three months after they met. She was 19 and he was 24. Within a year they had a baby, Sean, followed by their second son, Scott.

Bridger talked his way into the role of instructor at a now-defunct outdoor adventure centre. Eventually, after what one friend called ‘a volatile relationship’, Julie threw him out.

Terrified for the welfare of herself and her sons, she banned him from making contact with the boys.

Despite living nearby in the little market town, which has a population of only 2,000, he never tried to build a relationship with them. How ironic that Scott Williams, now 20, took part in the search to find April.

Until a few months beforehand, he didn’t even realise Bridger was his father. ‘He’s never really been in my life,’ Scott said. ‘I only met him on a couple of occasions, like down the pub when he’s been there at the same time as I have.’

It was in the same pub that Bridger met April’s future mother Coral – they both played darts there. At the time she was married to Indian restaurant worker Dobir Ali, the father of her teenage daughter.

It was in 1996 that Bridger met April’s father Paul Jones, who was dating Karen Griffiths, a relationship that would give them two daughters who eventually became half-sisters to April. Bridger was seeing Karen’s younger sister Elaine.

He was 30 at the time; she was 15, Mr Jones recalled. The couple moved in together on the estate from which April would disappear some 14 years later.

Elaine gave birth to a son at 18 and a daughter two years later. Her son by a subsequent partner would become April’s close friend. Bridger and Elaine had violent arguments during a stormy relationship which lasted eight years before it broke down.

He fled to Australia for a couple of months before returning to launch a legal battle for access to his children ‘so I could still have a part in their lives’.

It led to more rows, one of which involved police being called after Bridger injured a neighbour who intervened. When police arrived, he was brandishing a large piece of wood, and threatened a police officer with a machete. More convictions were added to the list.

Although the couple eventually came to an arrangement over the children, Bridger’s separation from Elaine left the low-paid abattoir worker and odd-job man on the lookout for a new woman.

He quickly began a relationship with Corinna Robinson, who at 27 was 13 years his junior.

He changed his name to Mark ‘Buster’ Verona, taking the surname from Deborah, the former partner he abandoned all those years ago.

He told friends the identity had been given to him by the Army to protect him from the IRA after he ran over one of the terrorist group’s members in Northern Ireland.

A friend of Corinna said: ‘She was really good for Mark. She got him sorted out. But they had a very difficult break-up. She wanted him to go and he didn’t want to. In the end he just moved on and found someone else.’

That ‘someone else’ was Vicky Fenner, a mother of two aged 24, little more than half his age. Remarkably, Vicky described Bridger as kind-hearted and funny.

He liked to pose for photographs in fancy dress, one of which shows him in drag and make-up. By now, Bridger was jobless, bankrupt, spending most of his benefits on booze and taking medication for depression. He claimed to be ‘95 per cent impotent’, and told friends he felt his life was ‘falling apart’.

He was approaching 50 and his conquests were not getting any easier. He was losing the ability to be in control, at least where adults were concerned. His sexual ambitions and fantasies lay elsewhere.

His time with Vicky gave him a perfect excuse to put himself at the heart of what would become his stalking ground. The house she used to share with her mother was yards from April’s.

The home of his ex-girlfriend Elaine and the two children he fathered with her was also nearby.

Hence Bridger’s Land Rover, in which he kept baby wipes, nylon ties, bin liners and duct tape, was regularly seen on the estate. Sometimes he invited youngsters who knew his own children to play in it.

In the period leading up to April’s murder, Bridger grew closer to Paul Jones, helping to mend the children’s bikes at one stage. Bridger often had a packet of crisps or some sweets to offer April whenever she appeared.

He and Vicky moved to the rented Mount Pleasant Cottage in August last year. In the six weeks they spent there, he was secretly downloading child porn, researching child abduction, rape and murder cases, and lusting after local schoolgirls.

When his partnership with Vicky inevitably hit the rocks, they went through a short separation and she ditched him in a text he received hours before he snatched April.

He spent that day sending a series of messages to ex-girlfriends and acquaintances in the vain hope of starting a new relationship. On his laptop, he watched a sickening porn cartoon that showed a young girl being raped while restrained and bound with duct tape.

He took the laptop with him when he went out that evening. In the fading light, he saw a sweet little girl playing innocently in the street. At that moment, Mark Bridger turned his ultimate fantasy to reality.



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