Man accused of April Jones murder is son of Queen’s protection officer based at Windsor Castle

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The Daily Mirror

The father of the man charged with the murder of April Jones had responsibility for protecting the Queen.

It is thought accused Mark Bridger, 46, would have met members of the royal family while his dad was based at Windsor Castle.

Graham, 71, worked for the Metropolitan Police – which runs the royal protection unit.

He is understood to have joined the force in 1967, when Bridger was two, and stayed until his retirement in 1994.

A source said: “Graham was a royal protection officer and Mark would have almost certainly have met some of the royal household at Windsor.

“It’s odd to think he’s now accused of this terrible crime.”

Protection ­officers and their families are often ­invited to events such as Garter Day, held each June, when new knights take an oath in front of the Queen.

Others typically in attendance include the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent.

Mr Bridger and wife Pamela now live in a ­retirement village in East Sussex.

A former neighbour said: “We knew Graham was a royal protection officer, but we didn’t know much about the detail of his work – we didn’t discuss that.”

Another who lived near the couple at a previous address in the village of Smallfield, near Horley, Surrey, 20 years ago said: “I knew Graham’s other son Stuart, he’s a lovely man. But we didn’t know anything of Mark.”

And a woman who lived near the Bridgers’ cottage added: “Mark never came to visit or anything like that – it was like he was estranged from them.”

When Bridger was growing up, the family lived in Croydon, South London. The Met Police would not comment on Mr Bridger’s service.

Meanwhile, detectives ­investigating the disappearance of April yesterday revealed they are expanding their search outside of her home town.

Officers confirmed the search of Machynlleth, where the five-year-old went missing two weeks ago, is almost complete and teams are now preparing to scour the surrounding area for clues.

April was last seen in a street near her home in the small Powys market town on October 1.

Police said: “While we have almost completed the searches in the town centre area, outside this small vicinity there is still a lot to do.

“The search continues at the same level of intensity we have seen all last week. We have a number of areas and locations that require a detailed, ­methodical forensic search.”

It was also confirmed that exhausted officers would be replaced by “fresh eyes and legs” from other UK forces.

Bridger, from Machynlleth, appeared in court on Wednesday accused of abducting and murdering April, and of unlawfully ­disposing of and ­concealing her body with intent to pervert the course of justice.

He is due to reappear in court on January 11.