Review: April

I’m sure that none of us can forget the disappearance of five-year-old April Jones from her home town of Machynlleth in the Autumn of 2012. It was the beginning of the biggest police search in UK history and although April’s body has never been recovered, a paedophile, Mark Bridger was convicted of her abduction and murder and sentenced to a full-life term after a month long trial.  April’s courageous parents have written a book about their horrendous ordeal, from the time before their family life would change forever, to their continuous fight against the ease at which child abuse can be viewed on the internet.

April is an account of Paul and Coral Jones’s precious time they had with their brave daughter, who was born prematurely and with a disability. We hear how much fighting she had to do to get through babyhood and beyond, which makes the cruel events of October 2012 so much more harrowing to read. At five years old, having put her trust in an adult, she was cruelly taken and murdered. The horror of what the family went through in the early months cannot be imagined; to have your precious daughter stolen from you and made to suffer in indescribable ways leaves a shock running through any compassionate reader. The fact that Bridger refuses to tell what happened to April makes this loving family’s ordeal so much worse.

Child abuse and internet availability

You may be wondering why they have written it, or indeed why people would want to read about such a harrowing case. I myself believe it is important to put accounts like this out to the public. It can be easy to sit and watch the news, shake your head in sympathy and forget. The Jones’ story is heart-breaking and, once read, will be etched into your subconscious. Prepare yourself to feel helpless to their suffering, but also to have abruptly bought into focus the appalling, weak regulations about child abuse and internet availability. Surely there has to be a point where family happiness and safety are more important than big businesses’ profits. It is referred to as child pornography – but it is abuse, plain and simple. This book allows us to see the Jones’ fight at government level for internet providers to improve security, to prevent access to child abuse. There has been some movement by Google, Microsoft,Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, but let us hope for the sake of April and others who have suffered at the hands of paedophiles that this movement continues to develop.

Diary entries and recollections

Alongside this, though, the book gives us a window into the world of family emptiness, guilt (undeserved) and heartache that follows from losing someone so precious to you. The Jones’ have two other children, and it must have been a hard choice as to what to write, knowing that they would read this book one day. I believe it is an honest account and reflects well on the family. It would be a natural instinct to protect forever your other children from the outside world…but Paul and Coral know in their hearts that to allow their children a normal, if somewhat changed life, is the best they can do for April’s siblings. The depth of despair that they went through, the way Coral couldn’t even face getting out of bed, eating, or sleep can only take us to a tiny understanding of the horror they faced. Through diary entries and recollections we live the dark months that have passed since April disappeared after being allowed, as a treat, to have fifteen minutes longer to play outside one evening.

“ ‘Fifteen minutes,’ Coral said firmly. ‘But only because you’ve been so good at school’…

…If only we’d known that in allowing her this small, rare privilege, we had just made the worst decision of our lives.”

The dark side of the internet

Reading this book brings many feelings to the surface. The anger at Bridger for lying to the police from day one and constantly changing his story; the added pain the family have been through because of this and the sense of loss that they are still dealing with. Of course it is not a cosy read, but it does highlight the frightening effect that the dark side of the internet can have on people.

 This horror needs highlighting and April’s story needs to be told. Paul and Coral need to be applauded for it.

April is published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2015.

Available in hardback £16.99