Paedophile Mark Bridger has joined a group of notorious criminals who have been given whole life sentences for their horrific crimes.
Bridger, 47, kidnapped five-year-old April Jones, before sexually abusing her, murdering her and then disposing of her body.
Her parents Paul, 41, and Coral, 43, are still coming to terms with the fact that Bridger may never reveal what he did with their daughter.
A heartbreaking victim impact statement from April’s mother also revealed how she will always “live with the guilt” of letting April, who had cerebral palsy, out to play the night Bridger snatched her away from her loving family.
Bridger, a former slaughterhouse worker, was given a whole life sentence by trial judge Mr Justice Griffith Williams after he was convicted by a jury at Mold Crown Court of April’s abduction and murder and of perverting the course of justice by unlawfully disposing of, destroying or concealing her body.
Only 47 other criminals in Britain have been handed such sentences.
Sentencing Bridger, Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: “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.”
He said Bridger abducted April for a “sexual purpose” after he had been jilted by his girlfriend and then murdered the schoolgirl and disposed of her body to “hide the evidence of your sexual abuse of her”.
The judge said: “How you disposed of her body must remain a mystery. It will serve no purpose for me to speculate as to what happened, but all the indications are that you burnt at least a part of her in the wood burner.”
Police believe Bridger dismembered April’s body before dumping the body parts at various locations in the hills, rivers and forests surrounding his home in Cienws, mid-Wales, after traces of her blood were found all over his rented cottage.
The judge continued: “Without the knowledge of what happened to April, her parents will probably never come to terms with their grievous loss, described so eloquently in the impact statement. It is to be hoped, for their sakes . . . and for the sakes of all those who mourn April, that the verdicts will bring some measure of closure.”
In her statement, read to the court by Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, Coral Jones said: “Words alone cannot describe how we are feeling or how we manage to function on a daily basis, and I would never, ever want any other family to go through what we are and will go through for the rest of our lives.”
She added: “I will never forget the night of Oct 1, 2012. This was the night we allowed our daughter April to go out to play with friends, something she had done hundreds of times before, and this is the night that she never came home.
“Since that night, the estate is quiet, as children are no longer allowed out to play as they used to.
“As April’s mother I will live with the guilt of letting her go out to play on the estate that night for the rest of my life.
“She fought to come into the world, she fought to stay in this world, and he has taken her, not only from us, but from everyone who loved her.
“I will never see her smile again or hear her stomping around upstairs and onto the landing.
“We will never see her bring home her first boyfriend and Paul will never walk her down the aisle.
“How will we ever get over it?”
As the sentence was handed down Bridger, wearing a blue shirt and spotted tie, nodded when he was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars, but shook his head when the judge called him a paedophile.
The trial, which began on Apr 30, was told that Bridger was a “fantasist” who had “a clear interest in child pornography and in child murder cases”.
The defendant himself had told police he was an SAS-trained “mercenary”, but he was in fact a former abattoir worker and a failed London fireman, who quit the service after six months because he could not reach the required training standard.
During the trial, prosecutor Ms Evans said Bridger murdered April then played a “cruel game” in an attempt to cover his tracks.
She also told the jury about the obscene material which had been found on Bridger’s laptop following his arrest.
Police found numerous indecent images on the computer, as well as pictures of young female murder victims, including Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the victims of Soham killer Ian Huntley.
Bridger also had images of local young Machynlleth girls, including April and her half-sisters.
On the day April was abducted, Bridger had viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting the apparent rape of a physically restrained and visibly distressed girl.
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