April Jones remembered with lantern as murder accused appears in court
The parents of April Jones released a Chinese lantern from the garden of their home on Monday nightin memory of their daughter, hours after the man charged with her abduction and murder appeared in court.
Coral and Paul Jones invited people across the UK to remember April by lighting a candle at 7pm – exactly one week after their daughter vanished while playing in the street close to their home in Machynlleth, mid-Wales.
The parents’ gesture came at the end of a dramatic day in which Mark Bridger made his first appearance in court. His eyes filled with tears as the charges were read out.
There were angry scenes outside the court in Aberystwyth as the 46-year-old former lifeguard arrived. Around 30 members of the public, who had waited patiently in the morning drizzle, shouted abuse and banged on the prison van he was travelling in. One man, who had travelled from Birmingham, threw a plastic bottle at the van.
Later police revealed that April’s parents were to mark the passing of a week since the moment their daughter disappeared by releasing a lantern “in memory of their daughter April”.
A police spokesperson said: “They are asking friends and neighbours, and anyone else who cares to do so whether they live in Machynlleth, anywhere else in Wales or indeed the United Kingdom to light a small candle at the same time and join them in remembering their beautiful little girl April.”
Coral Jones had posted on Facebook: “April has still not been found, I am not giving up hope that she will come home, so please keep looking for my baby girl April. She’s our world, the whole family are in bits as we don’t know where she is.”
Earlier, inside Aberystwyth magistrates court number one, which overlooks a marina, three seats reserved for members of April’s family remained empty. Wearing a tight-fitting blue sweatshirt and dark trousers, an unshaven Bridger was led into the dock flanked by two security guards. He was not in handcuffs but kept his hands behind his back. It was the first time he has been seen in public since he was arrested last Tuesday.
Asked if he was Mark Leonard Bridger, he replied: “That is correct.” He paused when he was asked what his address was and the clerk read it out: “Mount Pleasant Cottage, Ceinws [a village close to Machynlleth].” Bridger simply said: “Correct.”
He confirmed his date of birth and was told the severity of the charges meant he could not be tried in a magistrates court.
The first charge – the murder of April Sue-Lyn Jones between 30 September 2012 and 3 October 2012 – was detailed. He looked to the ceiling and tears welled in his eyes. He bit his lip and answered “yes” in a trembling, high-pitched voice when he was asked if he understood the charge.
Bridger is also charged with the abduction of April on 1 October and the unlawful disposal and concealment of her body with intent to pervert the course of justice between 30 September and 3 October. To both those charges, Bridger replied simply “yes”, in the same high-pitched voice when asked if he understood the allegations.
Bridger was told that he would be remanded in custody until Wednesday when his case will be heard at Caernarfon crown court. He is due to appear via video-link from prison in Manchester.
Outside, the crowd had swollen to around 50. They had to wait more than hour in the rain because Bridger was given breakfast in the cells before the long drive. As the van left, the same plastic bottle of energy drink, which had been recovered earlier, was again thrown at the van. Police held people back as they tried to get at the vehicle but one man banged the side, shouting abuse.
Meanwhile the police search continued. But for the first time officers admitted that they had to prepare for the possibility that April’s body would not be found. The search for the girl continued with fresh police officers from across the UK arriving. Police were moving their search headquarters from Machynlleth leisure centre to a community hall, partly to allow the town to try to start the long process of returning to normal.
Superintendent Ian John, said: “I want to reassure people we are continuing the search and we will follow this through.” He said one of the key elements remained to keep searching the River Dyfi as tide and current meant it was constantly changing.
He said no time limit had been set on the search but it was under “constant review”. Asked if there was a time when it would have to be called off he said: “That is something we have to prepare for.”
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