James Bulger, 2 killed by Jon Venables, 10 & Robert Thompson, 10
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Young Killers

James Bulger March 16, 1990 – February 12, 1993

On Feb. 12, 1993, in Liverpool, England, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables murdered 2 year old James Bulger after kidnapping the toddler from a butcher's shop in a shopping center with his mother, Denise who was momentarily distracted as she conducted business.

Two ten year old boys skipping school took the young child on a 2½ mile walk culminating at the railroad tracks. At a canal, on the way, he sustained head and face injuries from being dropped to the ground.

They were seen by at least 38 people, some noticed head injuries on the little boy. It was reported that he seemed upset and distressed, yet other's reported he was also seen laughing happily.

Once they reached the tracks, blue paint was thrown in James's face, they kicked him, battered him with bricks, stones, and a 22 lb iron bar; shoved batteries in his mouth; and sexually assaulted him before covering his lifeless body with bricks and stones on train tracks. A train severed his body. The boys went home afterwards to watch cartoons.

Several days later, James's mangled body in two pieces was discovered on a rail embankment. At the place his body was found, James was honored with floral tributes, including one from Thompson.

Both boys were arrested promptly based on security camera footage, witnesses, DNA and other forensics tests. Due to their age their identities were to be kept confidential however Information in this high profile and shocking crime distributed over the Internet and through the media soon made these identities public. The defendant's families were given new identities and relocated to undisclosed regions of the country after the mothers, Susan Venables and Ann Thompson, reported being attacked in the street, receiving repeated threats, and negative media coverage heavily placing the blame on the parents of these young defendants

Thompson, who was very short for his age, was described as quiet yet friendly. When he was five, his drunken father who beat and sexually abused his wife and children abandoned family. The following week their home burned down. His mother a heavy drinker, who had attempted suicide, could not control her seven aggressive, violent sons who bit, hammered, battered, tortured, and threatened to knife each other. When one of the boys was returned home from foster care he attempted suicide by overdose. Robert was the least able to defend himself from his siblings.

One of his first lawyers to interview him said: "He was a strange and lost little figure, who could be quite cool and tough. But he is no psychopath and he never showed violence or even bad temper either before or since the murder."

His father has not contacted him since his arrest.

He displayed no sadness or regrets during the trial. He failed to admit to any responsibility for James' murder, despite the blood evidence and Venables' confession. He glared at the press during the trial.

His mother sobered up, moved near where he was housed and visited him with four of her children daily. He earned 5 GCSEs in 1999 and reached A-levels in design and technology. Amanda Miller, a volunteer with the offender's family support group, said: "He seems remarkably well adjusted given the circumstances ... I mean, I'm amazed he doesn't cower in the corner."

In 1999 he admitted to his guilt.

Emotionally immature, Venables was hyperactive child who fought at school but after his parents separated, he spent two days a week at his father's (Neil) house nearby. He became a loner with attention-seeking tendencies. He banged his head on walls and cut himself with scissors at school. He received no help for these behaviors. His mother, Susan, suffered from psychiatric conditions including severe depressive problem. His brother and sister attended special needs for major learning disabilities.

Appearing younger and more naive than Thompson. Venables claimed Thompson bullied him but that it was Venables idea to approach James, though it was Thompson's idea to kill Bulger.

With his mother present at the time of his arrest, police and psychiatric interviews revealed a confused and frightened child fully aware of the seriousness of his legal problems.

According to an officer he confessed to his parents in his presence: "He ended up sort of curled up on Sue's lap and he was crying and crying and they said over and over that they loved him and would always love him and then, really very quickly, he said: 'I did kill him.'"

Daily during the three-week murder trial, vulnerable and shaken Jon Venables cried. He broke down and sobbed when the verdict was read. His father Neil Venables shook and wept as his as his body jerked and folded. John's mother sat erect, stiff, still, showing no emotion, eyes fixed in a trance like state.

The court would not allow testimony or evidence detailing their dysfunctional young lives. The defendants did not present a defense. They were found guilty and sentenced to an institution for young offenders.

Even though no evidence was presented that the boys watched violent movies, the judge explained that one father had a number of violent videos,most likely accessible to the boys when they skipped school. Bulger's death was similar to the death in Child's Play 3; a video his father rented the week prior the murder.

Timeline of Events

Photo Essay: The Loss of a Child -- TIME

The judge called it "unparalleled evil and barbarity" and gave them an indefinite sentence.

Venables and Thompson did not want to be released out of fear for their safety. One broke down in tears before his Parole Board hearing. June 22 2001, after serving 8 years, 4 months and 10 days in a secure facility, Thompson and Venables both 18, were paroled on a life licence -- immediate incarceration if they break any terms of their release, or seen as a danger to the public.

A full transcript of David Blunkett's answer to the release of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

They they were legally and confidentiality provided with false identities to rebuild their lives at a cost of £4 million in government money. By law, an anonymity ruling protects Venables and Thompson from the press in England and Wales - not Scotland, the foreign press or much of the internet.

In 2004, Denise, James's mother, received a tip on Thompson's whereabouts. She saw him but did not make contact.

As of March 2006 Robert Thompson was living with a male lover.

New Zealand headlines suggested that New Zealand might be asked to 'host' the murderers, and because of the threats of revenge by vigilantes.

Guardian Unlimited Archives

Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006

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