The James Bulger case hit the UK in 1993.
James Bulger, a 2-year-old, disappeared in a shopping mall with his mother. The boy was kidnapped and tortured to death. The brutal murderers were only ten years old.
The killers were tried as adults and sentenced to prison on November 24, 1993. These are the details of the chilling story.
The James Bulger Case: The Disappearance
On February 12, 1993, Denise Fergus went to the New Strand shopping center to shop for supplies. Nothing made her think that day would be different than any other day.
She had left her house in Merseyside, England, in the company of her son James Bulger, two years old. It was the typical shopping trip to replace what was missing from the refrigerator and the cupboard.
The woman entered the butcher shop to place an order at one point. When she turned around, she realized she no longer saw her son.
It was 3:40 p.m.
A desperate search for the toddler started in the James Bulger case. The opening scene still generates debates almost thirty years after it happened.
Two days later, James' body was found on an abandoned railway track in Walton, Liverpool. According to the police force, the little boy was without clothes in the lower part of his body. He received substantial blows to the head and torso, and his eyes were full of blue paint. This last piece of information was pivotal in finding out who was behind this murder.
The perpetrators in the James Bulger case were two ten-year-old boys: Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.
The security cameras from the shopping center were crucial for determining where to start the investigation in the James Bulger case. The toddler's mother told the Sunday Mail newspaper in 2018:
" I was the one who let go of his hand, I was the one who was destined to protect him. But do you know what my biggest regret is? That I didn't turn right instead of left, if I had taken the right turn and turned the corner, I would have seen James being led away."
Security Cameras: Key Piece In The James Bulger Case
In those few minutes, when Denise overlooked James's hand to pay, the lives of the Bulger family changed forever.
Little James could be seen circulating through the corridors of the New Strand. He was hand in hand with a boy older than him. Another boy accompanied them.
The journey from the market to Walton, where the body of James Bulger was found, is about 4 kilometers. The three children ran into 38 people who saw them on that road. Only a few realized that something was happening.
When someone approached the older boys to ask why the younger one was crying, they would reply that he was their little brother. Another story the ten years told was that James got lost and they were going to the police station.
There were so many witnesses to the James Bulger case and media coverage that the murder reached the whole world.
The James Bulger Case: Scenes Of Torture And Agony
Robert and Jon kidnapped James Bulger and attempted to drown him in the nearby canal. Then they carried, dragged, and kicked a toddler during a two-and-a-half-mile journey.
James was thrown violently in the air or against the railroad track where he was stoned with bricks. He was also hit over the head with a 22-pound iron bar and left dead on the other side of the tracks to be cut in half by a passing freight train.
After a few days of searching for the culprits behind the James Bulger case, the police managed to find Thompson and Venables. Before, they had interrogated an innocent child. That child had to leave the city with his family because of the threats they received.
The main clue in identifying the killers in the James Bulger case was a witness who saw the enhanced videos on television. The witness recognized the two boys since she saw them that February 12.
The woman contacted the police forces about the James Bulger case, and they searched for the 10-year-old boys.
Six days after the brutal crime, Robert and Jon were arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder in the James Bulger case. They were granted preventive detention and began a cycle of trials that will remain forever in history.
Thompson and Venables's guilt, named Child A and Child B, respectively, was immediately proven. The experts revealed that the blue paint on James's face was also found on the children's bodies.
There was also blood that matched the little boy's DNA and marks that matched Robert's shoes. It also transpired that before James, they tried to take another child.
Strong Call For Justice In The James Bulger Case
Crowds lined doors outside South Sefton Magistrates' Court each time there was a trial session. Everyone was calling for justice in the James Bulger case.
Bulger's family, devastated, was present in each judicial instance. The families of the murderers were also there. The killers initially denied the charges.
Finally, on November 24, 1993, both boys were found guilty. They became the youngest murderers in the country's history. The sentence clarified that both should be imprisoned in different jurisdictions.
They were released in June 2001. That was when the places where they had spent the last seven years were made known.
From the moment they went to prison, nothing more was made public about them. It was within their legal rights.
Thompson had been sent to the Barton Moss Secure Care Center in Manchester. There, he developed a passion for art. Venables spent time at Vardy House, Red Bank's security unit in St. Helens on Merseyside.
Thompson and Venables were given new identities, so there is no danger of them being recognized. Presently, it is completely forbidden to provide information on James' murderers. Doing this leads to prison or paying large sums of money for undermining the integrity of the criminals.
Phil Roberts was the detective on duty during the James Bulger case. He stated upon seeing and speaking with Thompson for the first time:
"They were a match made in hell. A whim of nature. They went out that day to kill, I really believe it. And if they hadn't been caught, I'm afraid they would have attacked again."
Robert Thompson Before The James Bulger Case
Since childhood, Robert has had a reputation for causing problems in the neighborhood. He was an Everton fan though he didn't go to the stadium often to watch the games.
He collected trolls that he bought with the money his mom gave him. Later he started stealing them.
His father left the family for another woman. Anne Marie Thompson, Robert's mother, was alone with six children.
At school, he was also a troublesome boy. He threw things and skipped school. He was always looking to fight someone.
Money had always been a problem in the family since Anne Marie, a single parent, worked as an office cleaner, a low-paid job. She left the job when she met another man, who left her alone again.
With his brothers, the fights were constant, and the family situation was not the best. One of them ran away from home after being beaten by his mother. That boy went to Social Assistance, where after a few years, they let him out, and he took his own life.
Robert would spend the afternoons he did not attend school, wandering around the neighborhood, causing disturbances. He entered places to steal objects that he would later throw away. He was catching pigeons, and some say that he ripped their heads off while they were alive.
Despite all the bad behavior, his mother initially defended that "he is not a murderer."
Who Was Jon Venables Before The James Bulger Case
In terms of personality, Venables was the complete opposite of Thompson. He was intelligent, although often teased for falling behind in class.
He had two brothers and parents, Neil and Susan. They lived separately, although the relationship was good since they saw each other often and shared the opportunity to be with their children during the week. Some say that the Venables' parents ignored both Jon and his siblings.
Neil was a movie buff, and he enjoyed horror movies. It is unknown if Jon ever saw any of the films his father rented. But there is one to coincide with the James Bulger case. In Child's Play 3, the final scene takes place on a ghost train.
As Susan, his mother, explained, "Jon was a hyperactive, attention-seeking kid," mainly at school.
The Guardian revealed that on one occasion, he had to be suspended from school for wanting to choke a classmate with a ruler. Jon had to be taken away from the boy, who had turned red.
This situation culminated in a change of schools, which led to meeting his new friend.
How Thompson And Venables Met
Jon's change of school in 1991 caused him to cross paths with Thompson, with whom he shared a class. They met after a fight that Robert starred in. Jon had been curious about his partner from the start, although he kept away because he noticed his abusive personality. However, over time they struck up a friendship.
Venables was not a boy who used to skip school. However, Thompson spent more time outside than inside it, so he led his friend down that same path. The first time they did it together, Jon's parents found them. Later, the situation happened repeatedly, and the parents knew nothing.
Together, they began to do many pranks, which became more serious each time. They made fun of people, stole paintings, and candy, broke into businesses, and harassed vendors. They even lost Robert's younger brother once in the same place where James Bulger was kidnapped.
Different psychological and psychiatric studies showed that the boys' behavior was not normal. However, they never stopped acting like little children. It is unknown what led them to murder in the James Bulger case.
The New York Times wrote:
"They even lied like children, trying badly, clumsily to cover their tracks after being arrested. At one point they said they didn't want to move James's battered body from the train tracks where they left him, because they didn't want to get in trouble for dirtying his clothes with his blood."
The Killers After The James Bulger Case
After spending six years in prison for the James Bulger case, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were released in 2001. They were released under conditions, and if they broke them, they would be imprisoned again:
"Thompson and Venables will not be able to return to the area where the crime was committed, they will not be able to have contact with each other, and, above all, their freedom will always be conditional."
They cannot be identified in public due to the severity of their torture and murder of a toddler.
Little is known about Thompson's life after leaving the secure Barton Moss unit. However, on one occasion, someone said he started to be interested in art. Some reports made in 2006 stated that he began a relationship with a man who knew his true identity.
Meanwhile, Venables' day-to-day life was somewhat more publicized. Upon obtaining his freedom, he returned to prison on different occasions.
The first time was in 2008 when he was found guilty of possession of cocaine and fighting drunk. Then, he was in trouble for possession of images of child abuse. He was sentenced to two years for confirming that he not only had them but also had spread them.
Four years after his release in 2013, he was imprisoned again. In November 2017, he was accused of having undisclosed images of children. In January of the following year, he was charged again, and the following month he returned to jail.
In addition, a book has been found among his belongings called "How to have sex with little girls."
There were two times when he had to be assigned a new identity. One of them was when an inmate of the place where he was, threw boiling water at him after finding out who he was.
The Sun recounted in an article that "the killer is asking for plastic surgery at taxpayer expense after allegedly identifying photos leaked online."
The James Bulger Case: The Conclusion
The Bulgers divorced in 1995 after their third child was born – the first was stillborn, and the second was James. Both managed to rebuild their lives.
Denise found love with Stuart Fergus, with whom she had two sons. Her ex-husband Ralph Bulger started a relationship with a woman, and they have three daughters.
Despite the separation, they always stood together in the request for justice for little James. They never gave up. Ralph released a book called My James in 2013, and Denise wrote I Let Him Go in the same year.
The James Bulge case remains one of the creepiest crimes that happened in Britain.