Mother of James Bulger wins 'historic' House of Commons debate

‘I have 29 years of ­unanswered questions’: Mother of James Bulger ‘over the moon’ as House of Commons agrees to debate inquiry into her son’s murder and why his killer Jon Venables has been FREE to commit more offences

  • In 1993 James Bulger, two, was killed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson 
  • The pair were sent to jail for eight years, and released with new identities at 18 
  • Denise Fergus, James’ mother, welcomed the case being discussed in Commons
  • Inquiry into son’s murder and failed rehabilitation of Venables to be addressed 

The mother of James Bulger is ‘over the moon’ that the House of Commons have agreed to debate her son’s murder and why his killer Jon Venables has been free to commit more offences.

Denise Fergus said she has ’29 years of unanswered questions’ as she welcomed the landmark decision to discuss the inquiry into her son’s horrific torture and murder in 1993.

The 53-year-old said there ‘have been too many failings over the years’ after a 214,000-strong petition calling for a discussion of the case was rejected by a committee of MPs in 2018.

Venables and Robert Thompson were both 10 when they kidnapped, tortured and murdered two-year-old James in Liverpool 25 years ago. 

They were released on licence after serving eight years in secure children’s units and were given life time anonymity.

Venables, 39, has since been returned to prison twice for child abuse images and is still behind bars. But he has launched a bid for parole and could be freed later this year. 

But following a face-to-face meeting with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, Ms Fergus received an email on Wednesday saying the debate had been agreed and she would be notified when a date was officially set.

Denise Fergus is ‘over the moon’ that the House of Commons have agreed to debate her son’s murder and why his killer Jon Venables has been free to commit more offences

James Bulger, two, was found dead after he went missing in the Bootle area of Liverpool in 1993

Venables (left) and Robert Thompson (right) were both 10 when they kidnapped, tortured and murdered two-year-old James in Liverpool 25 years ago

She is now hoping to ‘leave a legacy’ for her son and ‘make historic progress towards change’. 

Ms Fergus told the Sunday People: ‘My family and friends and I are over the moon. I have had 29 years of ­unanswered questions and this is a truly historic, momentous step ­towards change.

‘Hundreds of thousands of ­people have backed the petition I started and finally we are making progress towards an inquiry.

‘There have been too many ­failings over the years and I just hope this will be the beginning of something that will leave a legacy in the name of my son, James.’

‘I know I can never bring back James but I’m hoping the fighting I have done will benefit other families in similar situations.’  

After meeting with Ms Fergus, the justice secretary tweeted: ‘Thank you, Denise, for your courage. I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve been through over so many years. I was very moved to meet you, and you strengthened my resolve to reform the Parole Board.’ 

Meanwhile, in April James’ father Ralph has called for Venables to be stripped of his anonymity – while revealing a public inquiry was ‘long overdue’.

He said told the Mirror: ‘A public inquiry is long overdue so we can flush out the truth about so many issues.

‘But top of my list must be why Venables is still one of the very few people in this country who still has lifelong anonymity despite his repeated offending against children.

Ralph Bulger previously called for Bulger’s killer to be stripped of his anonymity

‘I don’t buy the argument that his life would be in danger. If that was the case, they would have to give secret identities to every child abuser and killer in the UK.’

Mr Bulger said he wants a probe into the decision behind releasing the killers after just eight years and would like people to be made accountable.

He also said that from ‘day one’ he thought the attack on his son had a sexual motive, and has also called for an investigation into the killers motives and separately about why his family were not given counselling after their son’s death.

Venables and Thompson were given new identities to protect them from the risk of vigilante attacks and were made the subjects of so-called ‘Mary Bell orders’, lifetime anonymity court injunctions.

At the time of Venables’ first release from prison, a psychiatrist ruled that he did not pose a danger to the public and was extremely unlikely to commit any further offences.

A surveillance camera shows the abduction of two-year-old James Bulger from the Bootle Strand shopping mall February 12 1993

Years later it emerged Venables had been detained in Vardy House – a small eight-bed section of Red Bank secure unit in St Helens on Merseyside – where it’s said he made such good progress he was kept there for eight years, despite it actually being a short-stay remand unit.

Venables’ release under his new identity went ahead and he is known to have been living independently by March 2002 – some time thereafter beginning a relationship with a woman who had a five-year-old child, although he denies having ever met them.

He was then reported to have had a number of ‘younger girlfriends’ which suggested he was enjoying a delayed adolescence.

He developed drinking and drugs problems, and he compromised his identity at least twice by telling friends he was a convicted murderer.

In September 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of affray after a drunken brawl and was given a formal warning by the probation service for breaching the good behaviour terms of his licence.

Ms Fergus said she has ’29 years of unanswered questions’ as she welcomed the decision to discuss the inquiry into James’ (pictured) horrific torture and murder in 1993

Later the same year, Venables was cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug.

When a probation officer later visited his home in Cheshire to discuss his fears that he could be in danger, he was attempting to destroy the hard drive of his computer.

The hard drive was later examined by police, who discovered that it contained dozens of indecent images of children.

Venables admitted he had posed online as a 35-year-old woman who had abused her eight-year-old daughter, and was returned to prison.

During his latest imprisonment he was given yet another new identity because of the risk posed by a previous security breach. Venables was paroled again in 2013 and took on his fourth new identity.

He was sentenced to 40 months in prison after pleading guilty to having more than 1,000 indecent images of children, in February 2018.

While Robert Thompson has not re-offended since being released on licence when he was 18 years old.

Though in 2006, reports claimed Thompson was in a stable gay relationship at age 23 and had settled well into his local community in the North West.

James Bulger: How the murder of a toddler shocked the nation 

 The murder of James Bulger was a vicious crime that shocked Britain.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both 10 years old on February 12, 1993, when they abducted the two-year-old before brutally torturing and killing him.

The crime made the boys the youngest killers in modern English history.

The duo snatched James from outside a butcher’s shop in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, while his mother popped into a store for just a few seconds.

James’ mutilated body was found on a railway line in Walton, Liverpool, two days later. 

The boys were playing truant from school, and CCTV showed them observing local children at the shopping centre, appearing to be ‘selecting a target’.

They were then captured on camera taking the boy away at 3.42pm, before leading him on a two-and-a-half mile walk through Liverpool to the village of Walton.

Venables and Thompson were seen by 38 people during the walk, and were twice challenged by bystanders because James was crying and had a bump on his forehead.

But they were able to convince the concerned people that James was their little brother and continued on their way.

They led James to a railway line near the disused Walton & Anfield Railway Station where they began torturing him – including throwing paint in his eye, pelting him with stones and bricks and dropping an iron bar on his head.

After the body was found, police launched an appeal showing the low-resolution CCTV images of the boy.

The breakthrough came when one woman recognised Venables, who she knew had skipped school with Thompson on that day, and contacted police.

They were charged with murder on February 20 and forensic tests confirmed they had the same paint on their clothes as was found on James’ body.

Around 500 protesters turned out for their initial magistrates’ court hearing due to the public outcry against the crime.

The subsequent trial at Preston Crown Court and the boys were considered to be ‘mature enough’ to know they were doing something ‘seriously wrong’.

Venables and Thompson were found guilty on November 24, 1993, with the judge describing them as ‘cunning and wicked’.

Reporting restrictions on their names were also lifted as it was considered in the public interest to do so.

Their parents were moved to different parts of the country and also received new identities due to death threats against them.  

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