Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!
On February 12, 1993, security cameras at the Bootle Strand Shopping Center near Liverpool, England recorded a young boy leading a toddler by the hand. A second boy walked a few steps ahead.
Two-year-old James Bulger trusted the two boys who took him on a long walk, cruelly tortured and then murdered him. The boys were seen by an estimated 38 people during the hours they had James. These people became known as the “Liverpool 38.”
As a mother, this is one of the most terrifying true crime stories I’ve read. My six-year-old knows not to trust strange adults, but an older child offering to play with her? I’m afraid she would follow. That’s why I can’t relax at a park or other public places.
On that February day, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson entertained themselves by stealing various items: candy, batteries, a can of paint. Both boys were petty delinquents. After the arrest, authorities assumed tough-acting Robert was the ringleader while Jon, who cried and wallowed in remorse, simply followed. Both boys blamed the other one.
Just like my daughter and I, Denise took James everywhere. And like myself, she’d suffered a miscarriage with her first child, making her even more protective of James. On February 12, Denise and her brothers girlfriend went to the shopping center, bringing James along. After a few stops, Denise bought James a snack, hoping to get him to settle down. But like any two-year-old, he was antsy and full of energy. He’d misbehaved at a couple of stores, and at their last stop, Denise went in and left James by the door. She was only inside the shop for a few minutes, and he was gone.
Robert and Jon had skipped class. Already behind a grade, both hated school. They went to the shopping center, where they were told to leave most stores they entered. They lied to shop clerks, telling them they were out of school on a holiday. They were at a concession stand near the butchers shop when they spotted James standing by the door and eating Smarties.
Jon told him to come on and James obeyed. Outside the shopping center, they carried the boy, who cried for his mother. At a nearby canal, one of the boys picked up James and dropped him on his head. They covered James with his hood to hide the cut from the fall. Several witnesses saw the boy being led by the older children. At one point, James rushed into traffic, crying for his mother. Drivers saw Robert catching him and pulling him back. Eventually, Robert and Jon took James to a grassy area near a reservoir where a witness saw Jon punch and shake James. She closed her curtains and did nothing. Others would encounter the boys, who talked their way out of James’s injuries by telling them they’d just found James and were on their way to the police station. One woman nearly took James to the police station herself.
At one point, the boys were very near the police station. They’d been dragging James along for hours now and had many opportunities to give him up and run. They chose to kill him. I won’t give you the details of the child’s murder. It occurred between 5:45 and 6 p.m on Friday.
James’s body was discovered on Sunday afternoon. The damage was horrific, but the blue paint the boys had flicked on him would be their undoing. Police knew from the security footage they were looking for two youths, and when an anonymous woman saw the footage, she called the police. She told them her friend Susan Venables had a son named John who’d skipped school Friday and had blue pain on his jacket sleeve. She also mentioned his friend Robert. The boys were brought in for questioning and eventually confessed.
Forensic evidence backed them up: the blue paint on their clothing matched the paint on James’s bod. His blood was on their shoes, and a pattern of bruising on James’ right cheek matched the features of a shoe worn by Robert.
Robert and Jon were found guilty on November 24, 1993 and sentenced to custody until the age of 18. They were released in June 2001, given new identities and moved to secret location. The English government gave them new passports, national insurance numbers, and medical records. They were not allowed to contact each other or Bulgar’s family, they were prohibited from visiting the area where the crime took place, and they had to report to probation officers. A worldwide media injunction was imposed after their release to protect the boys’ new identities. In 2010, Jon Venables went back to prison for violating parole.
I know they were only ten when they killed James. But what ten-year-old doesn’t know murder is wrong? These two boys had so many chances to let the child go. They lied and did whatever it took to keep him in their grip. Why should they be released? I have little doubt they would kill again, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. They should have served far more time than they did. And much like Mary Bell, the two were given entirely new identities, paid for by the government. I can’t condone it, and if I were Denise, I would never be able to rest.
What do you think of Jon and Robert’s release?
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