Why did they kill?
a new documentary investigates what drove the murderers of toddler James Bulger…
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.
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)