The trial of Mark Bridger, the man charged with the murder and abduction of five-year-old April Jones in Machynlleth, is expected to last into June.
Bridger denies the abduction of April on October 1 last year and her murder. He also denies a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The 47-year-old former lifeguard appeared at Mold Crown Court for the start of his trial today as the task began to select a jury.
Bridger, who was arrested the day after April vanished while playing on her bike near her home, had arrived earlier at the building, his head covered with a green blanket.
In the dock he wore a short-sleeved light blue shirt and striped tie, and spoke only to confirm his name.
The defendant, who could be seen with a large tattoo on his left forearm, was flanked by two security guards as the potential jurors were brought into the courtroom.
In the public gallery were April’s parents, Paul and Coral Jones. The couple walked into court looking tense and drawn and holding hands. Each wore a pink ribbon. These had become symbols of hope during the search for their daughter.
They listened intently as High Court Judge, Mr Justice Griffith-Williams, explained to the potential jury that the trial could last until June 14.
He said: “I don’t know whether you have been reading the papers or listening to the news but if you have, you have probably worked out by now that I am about to start the trial which arises out of the alleged murder of April Jones in Machynlleth last October.”
He added: “The defendant’s name is Mark Bridger, he is obviously sitting in the dock. It may be as well that you have a look at him just to make sure he is not somebody who you know or who you think you know.”
During the initial stages of the jury selection process, prospective members of the panel were asked to listen to a list of more than 50 witnesses who are due to give evidence.
The pool of potential jurors was also informed that the jury in the case will pay a visit to various sites in the Machynlleth area during the trial.
Asking the jury pool to consider any connections to Machynlleth which may prevent them from sitting on the jury, the trial judge added: “It is very important that no person on the jury has any present or past connection with the Machynlleth area, and certainly no connection which would cause any concern about that particular juror sitting on the case.”
The disappearance of April, who had cerebral palsy, sparked a massive outpouring of support for her family, with hundreds of people joining the search.
The youngster’s body has never been found despite a major operation led by Dyfed-Powys Police.
Bridger, of Ceinws, pleaded not guilty on January 14 at Mold Crown Court to abducting and murdering April, and of unlawfully disposing of and concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.
The trial was occupied with legal matters and jury selection today and is due to open later this week.
A pool of 30 possible jurors was sent home this afternoon.
They were asked to return tomorrow for the final 12-member panel to be selected and sworn in.Subscribe to our Newsletter