FORMER lifeguard Mark Bridger is "probably responsible" for the death of 5-year-old April Jones but denies her abduction and murder, a court has heard.
Bridger, of Mount Pleasant farmhouse in the village of Ceinws, near Machynlleth, will stand trial later this year accused of murdering April, who went missing in mid Wales last year.
April was last seen playing out on her bike on Machynlleth's Bryn-y-Gog estate, where she lived, on the evening of October 1.
Bridger was arrested the following day, but the search for April's body goes on.
Bridger entered not guilty pleas to abduction, murder and perverting the course of justice at Mold Crown Court.
But Brendan Kelly, defending, told the court his client's defence involves him "conceding that he probably killed the child".
Mr Justice Griffith-Williams said: "That matter can be reported. You have indicated that the defendant's case is that he was probably responsible for the death of April."
The judge ordered that no other evidence in the case can be reported.
April's parents Coral and Paul Jones were in court as Bridger, 46, entered his not guilty pleas.
Mr and Mrs Jones sat to the side of the dock, just 10ft away from Bridger.
The defendant was then brought in and confirmed his name to the court.
Bridger stood, his arms behind his back, and looked forward as he entered not guilty pleas to abducting and murdering April and a further charge of perverting the course of public justice.
Mr Justice Griffith-Williams refused an application from the defence to move the trial out of the North Wales area.
The trial, which is estimated to take around four weeks in total, was listed to begin on February 25.
On the day she went missing Mr and Mrs Jones had allowed April to play out late as a treat after she received a glowing school report at a parents' evening.
Her disappearance triggered a wave of community solidarity as a huge volunteer army stepped up to take part in a search for her.
Just before Christmas April's parents made an emotional plea over the missing 5-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
In a brief heart-rending message issued on Facebook, they stated: "We just want you home for Christmas."
The message continued: "11 weeks now my baby April been missing... we just want you home for Christmas.
"Its so hard you not here running around asking how long before Father Christmas is coming + you trying to open your present + try and help us wrap presents for family + friends.. please come home."
The message coincided with the posting of a poignant new photograph of a smiling April standing in front of a Christmas tree.
Massive efforts to find her body somewhere in the rugged terrain around the town have continued unabated.
Dyfed-Powys Police has vowed to carry on the search for April despite taking a two-week break over the festive period.
In December Superintendent Ian John, who is heading the search, said it would continue on the same scale and with equal numbers into the new year.
The spiralling cost of the continued hunt for April, comprising thousands of man hours, is set to come in at as much as £2.4 million.
The Home Office has agreed to grant the force the money it needs, up to £2.4 million, subject to it being scrutinised in detail.