What happened to April Jones? Channel 4 documentary revisits murder case

April Jones' disappearance prompted the largest police search in British history
April Jones' disappearance prompted the largest police search in British history. (Handout)

A decade ago, April Jones vanished.

The five-year-old girl disappeared as she played on her bicycle near her home in Wales, sparking the largest police search in British history.

Her killer, Mark Bridger, was later jailed for life for kidnapping and murdering April, but her body has never been found.

Ten years on, a new three-part documentary revisits the chilling case. The Disappearance of April Jones, which is being broadcast on Channel 4, explores the hunt for the missing child, the investigation into a local suspect and the challenges faced by the police.

What happened to April Jones?

April was abducted close to her home on the Bryn-Y-Gog estate in Machynlleth, a picturesque Welsh town, on 1 October 2012.

The young girl, who had cerebral palsy, was last seen by her parents at around 7pm, playing on her pink bike. Soon after, a friend saw her getting into a grey Land Rover and being driven away, although they said she got into the vehicle willingly.

Mark Bridger was jailed for life for kidnapping and murdering April Jones
Mark Bridger was jailed for life for kidnapping and murdering April. (Handout)

April's mother, Coral, called police to report her child missing at 7.29pm. Officers launched a critical incident less than ten minutes later. The news of April's disappearance spread quickly on social media, and by the early hours of the morning, hundreds of people descended on the area to help search for her.

The following day, police launched a manhunt for a suspect, Bridger, and smashed into his secluded rented cottage, named Mount Pleasant, in the nearby town of Ceinws. Bridger, a father-of-six and a former abattoir worker, was arrested in connection with April's disappearance and murder.

Bridger told his trial that he accidentally killed April in a car accident, but had forgotten what he did with her body because he was drunk and "panicking". He refused to say what he had done with the youngster's body, although police did recover fragments of her skull from his fireplace. The trial also heard that he had downloaded images of child sex abuse, as well as photos of child murder victims including Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Police outside the home of Mark Bridger, 46, who appeared in court today accused of the abduction and murder of five-year-old April Jones.
Bridger is thought to have murdered April in his secluded rented cottage. (Getty)

In May 2013, Bridger was found guilty of abducting and killing April, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice. He was given a full-life tariff, meaning he will never be released.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge John Griffith Williams called Bridger a "pathological and glib liar". He 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. You abducted her for a sexual purpose and then murdered her and disposed of her body to hide the evidence of your sexual abuse of her."

Paul and Coral Jones, the parents of April Jones, arrive at Mold Magistrates Court
April's parents Paul and Coral Jones arriving at court during the trial. (Getty Images)

Following the verdict, prosecutors called Bridger was a "cold-hearted murderer" who had "spun a web of lies and half-truths" to try to get away with his "truly horrific" crime.

In August 2014, the Welsh government bought Mount Pleasant – the cottage where April was most likely killed – and pledged to demolish it. Two months later, April's parents and elder siblings watched on in silence as a digger destroyed the property.

Her father Paul said: "Having this house demolished is symbolic. It's a sort of closure, the end of a chapter. All the time it has been here, its existence plays in the back of your mind. Even when you are not thinking about it, it’s there in the back of your mind."

Her mother Coral added: "Even driving on the main road near the village is difficult. You go past and your head ultimately turns to that house. It brings back the horrible memories of what happened. It was a dreadful thing that happened here. It will not be a final closure."