The murder that shocked the world: Horrific case of James Bulger and the child killers who tortured him to death





The murder of 2-year-old James Bulger by 10-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson rocked Liverpool to its core, leaving people asking for the blood of the young killers.
The murder happened more than 20 years ago and the case of how the two young boys lied to cover their guilt was examined in a CBS Reality show this past weekend, as their solicitors reveal the tales they told.
James Bulger was led away from his mother by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson who beat and tortured him before dumping his tiny body. The mother had briefly let go of her son's hand to retrieve her purse when the child was grabbed by his killers.
His killers, both children themselves, were branded evil by a public who could not understand what had made two young boys kill a two-year-old. They were locked up and released eight years later, with new identities to protect them from being hunted by people who could not get over their murderous crime.
Laurence Lee, a solicitor who represented Venables, said: "I don't think the public could get their heads around the fact that two 10-year-olds had murdered possibly a baby, which is what he was. It was the fact that that maybe there was a guilt complex in the public that kids that were possibly the same age as their kids could do something like this."
James was with his mother Denise in the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Liverpool, as she shopped in a butchers on February 12, 1993. When she turned round, her two-year-old son was missing. Security launched a search for James inside the centre and James' family searched for their son overnight. It was three days before James' body was found by boys trespassing on a disused railway line, near a bridge next to the police station. Three days after his body was found, a tip-off came from a shopkeeper who had seen two boys playing truant on the day James went missing and gave police two names - Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

Venables and Thompson had thrown stones and bricks, kicked and stamped on James before finally dropping a heavy iron bar on to the child. They hid his body under bricks so that the first train to come along cut his body in two, but he was already dead before this happened. A pathologist later said that there were so many injuries - 42 in total - that not one could be isolated as causing the little boy's fatal wound.
The net started to close on the boys when CCTV footage of the shopping centre emerged. Grainy images showed two figures, which appeared to be teenage boys, leading the victim away from his mother. As a manhunt for the two ensued, many believed the boys had to be acting on behalf of an adult to lead the young James away to be tortured and killed. But it was three days after James' body was found that two solicitors would find themselves at a police station, representing two 10-year-olds who would later turn out to be one of the country's most high profile murderers.
It was later discovered that the pair walked young James more than two miles - a journey that would have taken hours because he was so little. They were seen on the way by 36 people, some who would presume they were dragging along a younger brother and others, who noticed he was distressed and bleeding but were told by the pair that he was lost and they were taking him to the police station. One woman even wanted to take the trio to the station, but was with a dog who was jumping up and was scared the animal would bite the children. She directed them to Walton Lane police station instead.  The three even all stopped at a tropical fish shop and were seen tapping the glass to make the fish move.
Solicitor Laurence Lee was called to see Venables sitting in Lower Lane police station with his mum for questioning. He said he thought the child before him was about eight, and initially felt guilty at being paid to represent a child who he felt was "not capable" of anything like this.
The solicitor said: "His mum had said I want him to answer every question. I don't want any to be no comment. She was respectable. He had to cooperate, his mum insisted, and if there was evidence, she said he had to be tried."
"He was calm as a cucumber," added Laurence. "He was loving it. They had given him toys and coke. He didn't show any signs of cracking at all. He denied he had even been at the Strand."
But with image enhancement, which was restricted at the time due to the lack of technology in the early nineties, one of the boy's jackets showing in the CCTV footage was revealed as mustard coloured.
Laurence said: "I hardly slept that night, I couldn't wait to get back to the police station. The first thing I said to him (Venables) when I walked into the interview room was what colour's your coat, and he said 'mustard'. It was like the dambusters, a bomb, it hit the wall."
When police told Venables that Thompson had said he was at the shopping centre, his story began to unravel.
Laurence added: "He then said we were at the Strand, but we never grabbed a kid. And he was crying and wailing and he jumped out of his seat and hugged his mum. That was the moment I knew that I was in for the long haul."
The boys both told different stories of what happened that night and blamed each other for inflicting such violence and torture on James. They were charged with murder,
The boys, who were known to play truant from school were described as "unremarkable." Laurence said of Venables: "He just did things 10-year-olds would do, he was a mischievous little boy, he would hang upside down from cloakroom pegs, but there was nothing that worried me about him."
He added: "He had been put in charge of the school gerbil for half term and he bumped into Thompson who said forget the gerbil, let's go robbing. I think if he hadn't bumped into Thompson he would have picked up his gerbils and gone home. He wouldn't have gone to the Strand. I believe that Jon Venables, if he had been born in a different environment, would never have done this. It was just all the fates conspiring. I don't believe that he was born evil but I do believe he acted in the most evil of manners."
Venables, who was taped confessing to killing James claimed it was Thompson's idea and that as they threw bricks at the two-year-old, he missed on purpose. He went to see the floral tributes laid in the wake of James' murder.
On his part, Thompson denied having any part in James' killing. His solicitor said he found it "extremely difficult" to deal with the public attention, and the decision by a judge to name the pair added to this.
Before Thompson and Venables could be tried at court they were taken to do a recce of the courtroom. As they were so small, the base of the dock floor had to be raised 18 inches so each boy could see over it.
Laurence added: "We were in one car and Thompson was in the other. The road had been cleared. But we stopped at a set of traffic lights on red and I remember looking over to the other car and seeing Thompson smiling in a very Omen-like manner at us."
Dominic Lloyd, who was called to the police station to represent Thompson after he was first taken in for questioning, said he was struck when he saw the relatively diminutive 10-year-old. He described Thompson as a boy who was the brighter of the pair, and known as a tearaway, mischievous, but nothing more that would indicate he would go on to carry out such a horrific crime.
"He was baffled, disoriented, frightened, confused. I was profoundly struck with how small, how young, how high pitched, how wrong it seemed for him to be in that position," Dominic said.
Before the boys were brought to court for trial the prison trucks had to move past an angry crowd who were screaming and rocking the trucks as they showed their anger for the two boys who had killed a defenceless two-year-old. Unbeknown to the public, officers had actually done a dummy run in the trucks to save the pair from the mob. The crowd was unaware that the vans they were rocking were empty.
Serena Macksey, an author who writes under the pseudonymn Alex Marwood and was inspired to write her latest crime novel following the horrific killing, said: "There was no question they would have been torn limb from limb. The mob were just baying for blood."
Ahead of their trial at Preston Crown Court nine months later, the public had queued up from 5 a.m. to get one of the 44 public gallery seats inside the court room. The court appearances of the boys had been met with an outpouring of rage and anger by the public, but when the two first appeared before Mr Justice Morland, witnesses said an "eerie silence" fell.
Alex added: "My baseline belief is that absolutely anybody is capable of wickedness. But if you did something really horrendous as a child, would you ever recover from it as an adult? How would you ever live with yourself afterwards?"
The boys were charged on February 20 - eight days after committing the murder. They appeared at court for the first time on February 22. Both were found guilty, after trial, of the abduction and murder of James, and ordered to be detained at her majesty's pleasure, which meant there was no definite date - if ever - for their release. But after eight years, when both reached 18 in 2001, they were released on licence and given new identities. They were also banned from ever returning to Liverpool.
In March 2010, Venables was recalled to prison for breaching his licence conditions. He was jailed for two years before being granted parole again in July 2013. In 2015 it emerged Venables, who was given a new identity and enjoys lifelong anonymity, joined a dating website.
Author Marwood used the story as inspiration for her book titled The Wicked Girls. The book follows the story of two girls who were convicted of murder and later released with new identities.

Below is an audio of the boys' confession.


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