Yesterday afternoon, Mark Bridger was given a whole life tariff at Mold Crown Court for the murder of 5 year old April Jones. He was convicted on all counts
after a total of four hours and six minutes deliberation by a jury of 3 men and 9 women. Although April has still not been found, it was reported after his conviction that while on remand awaiting trial he had indicated to a priest
that he had disposed of her body in the river.
This may be true but it remains to be seen if anything Bridger has said or will ever say about this terrible crime can be believed. The police found bone fragments in his cottage, and shortly before his arrest he was filmed walking his dog while smoke billowed from its chimney. That and the fact that Bridger had worked in an abattoir suggests April's body may have been cut up and burned. Without wishing to make an horrific story sound even worse, he may even eaten it.
To all intents and purposes he was a regular guy if a bit of a rough diamond. Like literally millions of people in this country he had criminal convictions, including for violence, but although his antecedents indicate a man with a quick temper, there was nothing to suggest he was a danger to young girls. He had both a string of lovers and kids of his own; if on that evidence you were told he would one day commit a murder, you would probably have suggested some sort of man to man confrontation, impulsive and pointless in the extreme, but not cold, calculated, planned and consciously evil, and not of a girl any red-blooded male would be proud to call his daughter, his pride and joy.
All this speculation leads us nowhere, but there is one more that should give us food for thought.
April Jones was reported missing at 7.29pm on October 1 last year. She had been snatched off the street minutes before, and a 7 year old friend, the only witness but a credible one, told April's mother she had climbed into a car willingly.
Because of the circumstances - April's age, her medical condition (she suffered from cerebral palsy and needed medication) - the witness...a massive hunt was launched.
Bridger was arrested around 3.30 the following afternoon - a timeline can be found here
By the time of his arrest, the police were near certain that a) he was the man who had snatched her and b) that she was dead. He had obviously undertaken a major cleaning operation, and the cottage smelled strongly of detergent.
By Friday, October 5 they had forensic confirmation that April - or her body - had been taken to the cottage. Later, Bridger would claim he had hit April in his car (accidentally) and disposed of her body (though he couldn't remember where). Now, returning to Friday or sooner, although clearly the police believed April to be dead, they had to assume she was alive, perhaps held captive somewhere as in the Lesley Whittle and Stephanie Slater cases
. This is what is known as a ticking time bomb scenario, and is about the only set of circumstances under which torture can be justified both morally and practically.
Fifty years ago and probably less, the British police would quite likely have attempted to beat a confession out of Bridger. Today, this kind of thing is unthinkable, at least in the civilised
West, but it would unquestionably have been justified here.
Here are two scenes from the film Dirty Harry
in which Clint Eastwood does just this. In the first scene
we see the beginning of his torture of a psychopathic killer; then we see the result
. This is because in this situation the court applies the doctrine known as the fruit of the poisoned tree
. In the United States this is more or less cast in stone, but the UK has different rules.
In practice, since the mid-1980s, police malfeasance in this area has been curtailed partly by legislation and partly by technology. At one time police officers would claim routinely that a known villain had confessed his crimes in the back of a police car; "It's a fair cop, guv" is the classic confession. Nowadays unless such a confession is on tape, it is likely to be excluded by the trial judge, or even by the CPS. The use of torture cannot be condoned, but on those extremely rare exceptions where it may lead to the saving of human life by applying it to say a kidnapper, it can be justified. The consensus appears to be that the British police in particular spend far too much time chasing non-criminals such as people who tweet
offensive comments, and those like John Terry
or Mohammed Hasnath
. If they were to drop this sort of nonsense, and concentrate on the real bad guys, the very occasional use of illegitimate practices such as torturing a certain child abductor or killer would not cause outrage.
Whatever the police could or should have done to Bridger, he is likely to suffer far worse from other inmates if there is ever any attempt to integrate him into the general prison population, and it seems most unlikely that he will ever be considered for release, unlike triple child killer David McGreavy