Paedophile Mark Bridger has joined a group of notorious criminals who have been given whole life sentences for their horrific crimes – but commentators suggest that is likely to be quashed by the Court of Appeal .
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 now 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, play out 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, destroying or concealing her body. Only 47 other criminals in the UK 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.”
Police believe Bridger dismembered little 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.
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.”
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.
In a statement, Ed Beltrami, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wales, said: “Ever since his first interview with police in October last year, Mark Bridger has relentlessly spun a web of lies and half-truths to try and distance himself from the truly horrific nature of the crime he perpetrated. He has refused to take responsibility for what he did to April and has stopped at nothing to try and cover his tracks.”
April’s parents said the family was relieved by the verdict. In a statement read outside court, Coral said: “We are relieved that Mark Bridger has today been found guilty of the murder of our beautiful daughter April. April will be forever in our hearts and we are so moved by the overwhelming support we have had from so many people all over the world.”
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he wondered how many more victims lay at the door of Mark Bridger.
Mr Leech said: “People just do not wake up at the age of 47 and become child sex killers, there needs to be a serious investigation now into the life of Mark Bridger to discover how many more victims may lay at his door.
“The whole life tariff I suspect may be quashed by the Court of Appeal – particularly when you consider Ian Huntley who murdered two girls and David Bieber who executed one police officer and almost murdered two others are not serving whole life tariffs; Bieber who was initially given a whole life tariff had that was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2006 and substituted for a sentence of 37 years.”