The man accused of abducting and murdering five-year-old April Jones told police he wished he could remember what he had done with her body so that her parents could "lay her to rest".
Mark Bridger claimed he had knocked April over in a road accident, panicked and driven her lifeless body away from the spot where she had been playing on her bicycle but simply could not recall where he had left her, his trial was told.
The prosecution alleges that Bridger, who is said to have had an interest in images of child abuse and in notorious child murder cases, abducted and murdered April before hiding or destroying her body. It claims his motive was a sexual one and suggests he took April back to his home and she lay bleeding in his living room in front of his wood-burner in which charred fragments of bone thought to come from the skull of a young person were found.
On the second day of the prosecution opening, Elwen Evans QC told the jury that during police interviews Bridger, a 47-year-old slaughterman and a father-of-six, apologised for what he had done.
"I'm sorry for what happened," he said. "If in my heart of hearts I knew where she was I would tell them [April's parents]. One, they could lay her to rest. Two, it would assist me in this distasteful case. Three, my children would believe, okay, I killed a young child and I did things wrong but they would also not be victimised because I'm their dad."
The jury was on Wednesday led through the events leading up to April's disappearance on 1 October last year from the mid-Wales town of Machynlleth and Bridger's arrest next afternoon.
Bridger had broken up with a girlfriend, Vicky Fenner, who texted him in the early morning of 1 October: "I just can't do it. Be happy." He replied: "I'm still in love with you." Shortly after noon he was on his computer allegedly looking at a cartoon image of what appears to be a young girl being forced to have sex while restrained.
Later he contacted three women and asked them out on dates. At around 5.30pm he was at his daughter's school for a parents' evening. As he left at around 5.45pm he spoke to a friend of his daughter and asked her if she wanted to come for a "sleepover" at his house. He drove away alone.
Meanwhile, April had been at a swimming pool. CCTV footage shown to the jury captured her being swung by an older child. Having returned home, she went out to play on her bicycle with a friend, the court heard.
At 7.15pm Bridger was parked near to where April was playing, the jury was told. April allegedly got into Bridger's Land Rover voluntarily and five minutes later he was seen driving "fast" away from Machynlleth.
He was seen reversing back into his drive at 8.30pm. Just before midnight Bridger sent a text to a friend signing off with a kiss. Evans asked the jury: "Was that before or after April had died?"
Next morning – 2 October – Bridger was seen before 9am with a black binbag on a small road near the river Dyfi. At 10.32am he was walking his dog near his home, Mount Pleasant in the village of Ceinws, three miles from Machynlleth. Footage of him happened to be captured by a police helicopter involved in the search for April. Smoke could be seen coming from the chimney of his cottage.
At 3pm police arrived at Bridger's house looking for April. Officers said the cottage was "uncomfortably hot" and there was a strong smell of detergent.
When he was arrested near the river half an hour later, Bridger told officers: "I know what it's all about." Asked: "Where is she?", he replied: "It was an accident. I crushed her in the car. I don't know where she is."
As he was driven to a police station Bridger claimed: "I have been looking for her all night. I didn't abduct her. I just wish I knew what I've done with her, where I've put her. I need to say sorry to her family."
In subsequent interviews Bridger said he would not have buried her and as a father could not have thrown her body in the river.
He admitted to police they would find indecent images of children on his laptop but said he had stored them because he was making complaints against the companies that published such material.
The court has heard that Bridger also filed images of local girls, including April's half sisters on his computer, and pictures of murder victims including Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman who were killed at Soham in Cambridgeshire.
Evans told the jury he had also researched the American child serial killer Ted Bundy and the killing of two-year-old Jamie Bulger.
In an interview Bridger told police: "I can promise you she's not alive" but said: "If there was a sexual motive, where is the evidence?"
A detailed forensic examination of Bridger's house, car and clothes took place. Evans said an expert had not been able to rule out that her DNA was not present in a sample taken from the crotch of his tracksuit trousers when he was arrested.
She told the court that there was no evidence that Bridger's Land Rover had been involved in a collision and there was no sign of April's blood in his car. She suggested that April did not come to harm in Bridger's car but at his house.
The prosecution says Bridger carried out a thorough clean-up but April's blood was found in the living room, the hall and the bathroom. In the bathroom specks of blood were discovered on the washing machine and a shower curtain.
Also shown to the jury were magnified images of what the prosecution says are bone fragments of a youngster's skull recovered from ashes in the stove.
Evans asked: "What happened to April there? She lay bleeding in front of the fire in the defendant's living room. One person knows and he is not prepared to say." Bridger denies abduction, murder and intending to pervert the course of justice by disposing of, concealing or destroying April's body.