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article imageMass murder and alleged child murder in Wales

By Alexander Baron     May 3, 2013 in Crime
Machynlleth - Wales has a population of barely three million souls, but this week it has seen two of the most harrowing criminal trials in the UK this year.
The town Prestatyn is a fairly well known and popular holiday resort. Now its name will be linked forever with not only sandcastles and fun, but mass murder. In October last year, fire swept through a Prestatyn apartment killing five people. Self-confessed binge drinker Melanie Smith started that fire, and has now been convicted of the murders of all five. All were members of the same family; the youngest victim, Charlie, was just 15 months old.
What motive could anyone have for committing such a terrible crime? The answer is as trivial as the act itself was shocking: an argument over a child's pushchair.
The apartment of the Shiers family was in a converted house; Smith lived downstairs, and there had apparently been a dispute over the pushchair that was left in the shared hallway, so she set fire to it. Smith was convicted after the jury had deliberated for nearly 15 hours. She has yet to be sentenced, but when she returns to Mold Crown Court later this month she can expect a heavy tariff to go with her mandatory life sentence.
At the very same court another murder trial is now in full swing; although this concerns the death of only one child, the evidence the jury will hear is likely to be even more harrowing. In October last year, April Jones was playing in the street with some friends. She was not only five years of age but suffered from cerebral palsy and therefore needed medication, so her disappearance would have caused alarm in any case, but she was said to have been seen getting into a car.
Shortly, local man Mark Bridger was charged with her abduction and murder. April's disappearance led to what is quite likely the largest hunt for a missing person ever to be mounted in Wales, even though the authorities acknowledged the chances of finding her alive were somewhere between zero and minus one.
Bridger denied and continues to deny murdering April, although he has now admitted being "probably" responsible for her death.
His trial opened May 1, when the prosecution outlined its disturbing case. As of today, the jury has visited the locations involved in this alleged murder, including Bridger's cottage. They were told fragments of bone and traces of blood were found here. On their return to the courtroom, they asked the judge a number of questions.
A detective has given evidence relating to the CCTV footage collected by the police during the course of the search for April, and when the witness statement of April's father was read out in court, Bridger is said to have wept in the dock.
The jury has also been told both that child pornography was found on Bridger's computer, that he searched for pictures of young girls naked, and that he had attempted to "friend" April's half-sister on Facebook.
In spite of his tears and protestations of innocence, Bridger has refused point blank to say how he disposed of April's body other than to claim that he killed her in a car accident and now doesn't know where she is.
The case continues.
More about april jones, Mark Bridger, melanie smith, Mass murder, Arson
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