Why did they kill?

a new doc­u­men­tary in­ves­ti­gates what drove the mur­der­ers of tod­dler James Bul­ger…

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The ab­duc­tion and mur­der of two-year-old James Bul­ger was one of the UK’s most shock­ing crimes, even more so be­cause it was car­ried out by two chil­dren. On the 12 Fe­bru­ary 1993, Jon Ven­ables and Robert Thomp­son, both aged 10, took the tod­dler away from his mother out­side a shop in Boo­tle, Mersey­side, and led him to a rail­way track where they tor­tured and mur­dered him.

Hor­rific crime

Pub­lic opin­ion was clear – the boys were evil mon­sters – and in No­vem­ber 1993 they be­came the youngest con­victed mur­der­ers in mod­ern Bri­tish his­tory. But the ques­tion of how to pun­ish and re­ha­bil­i­tate them was less clear. They were kept in a se­cure unit un­til they were 18 and re­leased in 2001 with new iden­ti­ties.

How­ever, Ven­ables con­tin­ued to re­of­fend. He was jailed in

2010 for down­load­ing and dis­tribut­ing in­de­cent images of chil­dren and in 2017 was sent to prison again for a sim­i­lar crime.

The fail­ure to re­ha­bil­i­tate Ven­ables and the ques­tion of why the boys car­ried out such a hor­rific crime has caused decades of pain for James’ fam­ily and ev­ery­one in­volved. Now, this doc­u­men­tary re­veals a trail of pa­pers from the boys’ ar­rest to their re­lease from prison, and tries to dis­cover what turned th­ese two young boys into killers.

James’ mother, Denise Fer­gus, only re­cently dis­cov­ered the full ex­tent of her son’s in­juries and de­manded an in­quiry into what was known by the au­thor­i­ties about her son’s killers when they were re­leased in 2001.

‘Re­leas­ing Ven­ables was a mas­sive mis­take,’ says Denise. ‘Both of them should have served time in an adult prison. I want to know on what ba­sis the pa­role board con­sid­ered he was re­ha­bil­i­tated.’

Guilty… Robert Thomp­son (left) and Jon Ven­ables

Tor­ment… Mum Denise and James (inset)

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