By Maria Golovnina
A former slaughterhouse worker was jailed for life on Thursday for abducting and killing five-year-old April Jones in a case that prompted one of the most intensive police searches in British history.
April, who had cerebral palsy, vanished as she played on her bicycle near her home in the town of Machynlleth in mid-Wales on Oct. 1, 2012. Her body has never been found.
Mark Bridger, 47, was convicted by a jury in a Welsh court earlier in the day of abducting and killing her, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice, the Press Association reported.
“There is no doubt in my mind that you are a paedophile, who has for some time harboured sexual and morbid fantasies about young girls,” the trial judge, Justice Griffith Williams, said in his sentencing remarks.
“You abducted her for a sexual purpose and then murdered her and disposed of her body to hide the evidence of your sexual abuse of her,” he said, according to a statement by the Judicial press office.
Bridger shook his head when the judge mentioned his interest in violent child abuse, but otherwise listened impassively, the PA reported. He closed his eyes and appeared to hold back tears as the verdicts were read.
Prosecutors said after the verdict that Bridger was a “cold-hearted murderer” who had “spun a web of lies and half-truths” to try to get away with his “truly horrific” crime.
Earlier, the jury was taken to visit Bridger’s house where April’s blood and bone fragments were found. Bridger himself had said April died in a car accident and denied abduction, murder and other charges.
The judge said Bridger had stored images of pre-pubescent and pubescent girls on his laptop as well as pornography involving abuse of young children.
“You set out to find a little girl to abuse,” he said. “I am not sure you targeted April specifically – it was probably fortuitous that she can be seen on some of the images, which you stored on your laptop, of her older sister – but you were on the prowl for a young girl.”