A new three-part Channel 4 documentary examines the tragic case of a young girl who was snatched from outside her home where she was playing with friends. Despite her disappearance sparking one of the biggest police searches in UK history, the body of April Jones was never found.
The Disappearance of April Jones follows the search for the five-year-old, which became a sensational news story and saw hundreds of volunteers descend on the area to help. A suspect in the case was soon found, but the search for April dragged on for months.
What happened to April Jones?
April Jones disappeared on October 1, 2012 after being seen getting into a vehicle near her home in Machynlleth, Powys in Wales. The youngster, who was then aged five and had cerebral palsy, was last seen by her parents riding her pink bicycle at around 7pm that evening after going out to play with friends at the Bryn-y-Gog housing estate.
Around 20 minutes after April left the house, her mother set out to look for her, dialling 999 at around 7.30pm when she was unable to locate her daughter. The first officer on scene from Dyfed-Powys Police spoke to a child witness who reported seeing April climbing into a “grey van”.
The investigation was immediately upgraded to a critical incident, sparking a major search across Machynlleth involving police officers and residents. By the early hours of October 2, hundreds of residents and volunteers were scouring the area for April.
A local man, Mark Bridger, was arrested 24 hours after April went missing. He became a suspect in the case as the 46-year-old matched the description given by an eyewitness of a man and his vehicle April was seen entering - a left-hand drive Land Rover Discovery.
Three days later, police officially designated the case a murder enquiry, despite the fact a body had not been found - and this was the first indication that officers now believed April was dead. Sky News presenter Kay Burley was accused of insensitivity after breaking the news of April’s probable death on-air to volunteers, who were still out searching for the little girl.
Conviction of Mark Bridger
On October 6, Bridger was charged with child abduction, murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice before he appeared before magistrates at Aberystwyth where he was additionally charged with the unlawful concealment and disposal of a body. Bridger pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering April Jones at Mold Crown Court on January 14 2013, but accepted he was “probably responsible” for her death.
The trial of Mark Bridger began on April 29, 2013 and saw a scientific expert tell the court that fragments of human bone believed to belong to a “younger individual” had been found in the fireplace at Bridger’s cottage. Blood found in several parts of the house also matched April’s DNA.
In his defence, Bridger claimed he had accidentally run over April in his car and could not remember disposing of her body due to alcohol and panic. On May 30, 2013, a jury found Bridger guilty of abduction, murder and perverting the course of justice.
Mr Justice Griffith Williams sentenced Bridger to life imprisonment with a whole life order, calling him a “pathological and glib liar” and a “paedophile”. Dyfed Powys Police have said they believe Bridgers scattered April’s remains across the countryside near his cottage.
Although April’s body was never found, 17 fragments of bone were recovered from the fireplace in Bridger’s cottage. A funeral service for April was held in Machynlleth on September 26 2013.
When is The Disappearance of April Jones on TV?
The three-part documentary The Disappearance of April Jones began airing on Channel 4 on Monday (December 12) at 9pm with later episodes released at the same time on Tuesday, December 13 . The last episode will air tonight (Wednesday, December 14) at 9pm. Episodes are available to watch on All4 shortly after they first air.