Former lifeguard Mark Bridger 'probably responsible for death of missing five-year-old April Jones'April went missing after she was seen getting into a car on October 1Mark Bridger will stand trial later this yearApril's parents Coral and Paul Jones attended court today
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Mark Bridger, 46, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of April Jones
Former lifeguard Mark Bridger is 'probably responsible' for the death of five-year-old April Jones, who went missing in mid Wales last year, a court heard today.
But he pleaded not guilty to her murder and abduction in a hearing at Mold Crown Court this morning.
Mr Justice Griffith-Williams said in court: 'You have indicated that the defendant's case is that he was probably responsible for the death of April.'
Bridger, of Mount Pleasant farmhouse in the village of Ceinws, near Machynlleth, will stand trial later this year.
April was last seen playing out on her bike on Machynlleth's Bryn-y-Gog estate, where she lived, on the evening of October 1.
Bridger was arrested the following day, but the search for April's body goes on.
April's parents Coral and Paul Jones were at court today as Bridger, 46, entered not guilty pleas.
They were led into the court before Bridger was brought up.
The couple, both wearing pink in tribute to their daughter whose body has still not been found, sat to the side of the dock,
just 10ft away from Bridger.
The defendant, with short cropped hair and goatee beard, was then brought in and confirmed his name to the court.
Both parents stared at Bridger as the charges were read to him.
This new picture of April Jones was released yesterday as police turned to a steep hillside in their search for the five-year-old
Coral Jones, the mother of murdered schoolgirl April Jones arrives at Mold Crown Court this morning to hear Bridger enter his plea
April's father Paul Jones, right, wearing a pink shirt as a tribute to his daughter, arrives at court today
Bridger stood, his arms behind his back, and looked forward as he
entered not guilty pleas to abducting and murdering April.
Bridger denied abducting her on October 1 and keeping her out of the lawful control of her parents.
He also pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice by unlawfully disposing of, destroying or concealing the body of April.
At one point Bridger, wearing a navy blue jumper with a pair of
spectacles tucked into his collar, appeared to be making an effort to
compose himself as he entered his pleas and looked up towards the
ceiling as he entered his final not guilty plea.
Mark Bridger pictured getting out of a van at Mold Crown Court today where he entered not guilty pleas
During the hearing, Mrs Jones was seen wiping tears from her eyes with a tissue.
The trial, which is estimated would take around four weeks, was listed to begin on February 25.
Bridger, currently being held at Strangeways Prison, was remanded in custody in the meantime.
The judge said: 'This case will be adjourned for trial to take place on Monday February 25. You will remain in custody in the meantime.'
On the day April went missing Mr and Mrs Jones had allowed April to play out late as a treat after she received a glowing school report at a parents' evening.
Her disappearance triggered a wave of community solidarity as a huge volunteer army stepped up to take part in her search.
Accused: These photographs show Mark Bridger, the man charged with the murder of missing April Jones, on holiday, left, and playing with two dogs on a beach, right
Her body has still not been found despite one of the largest police searches in UK history.
Just before Christmas April's parents made an emotional plea over the girl, who suffered from cerebral palsy.
In a brief heart-rending message issued on Facebook, they stated: 'We just want you home for Christmas.'
The message continued: '11 weeks now my baby April been missing… we just want you home for christmas.
'Its so hard you not here running
around asking how long before father christmas is coming + you trying to
open your present + try and help us wrap presents for family +
friends.. please come home.'
April was last seen playing out on her bike on the evening of October 1
Massive efforts to find her body somewhere in the rugged terrain around the town have continued unabated.
The spiralling cost of the continued
hunt for her, comprising thousands of man hours, is set to come in at as
much as 2.4 million.
Dyfed Powys Police has vowed to carry on the search for April despite taking a two-week break over the festive period.
Police currently have 16
teams involved in the search operation and officers are still scouring
the countryside around the town for her.
In December Superintendent Ian John,
who is heading the search, said it will continue on the same scale and
with equal numbers into the new year.
Dyfed Powys Police has confirmed that
it lodged an application for a special grant to cover the exceptional
expense of the ongoing search.
The Home Office has agreed to grant the force the money it needs, up to 2.4 million, subject to it being scrutinised in detail.
Before Christmas, April's parents said they have accepted they will never see their 'beautiful little girl' again.
They said in a statement: 'We are coming to terms with the fact that our baby girl has been taken from us.
'The messages of support from all
over the UK have continued and we remain grateful that we are in
people's thoughts and prayers.
'It has shown us that people really do come together at difficult times.'