The father of murdered British two-year-old James Bulger has spoken out for the first time, 20 years after his son’s death shocked the world.
In an extract from his new book published in The Daily Mail, Ralph Bulger describes his torment after his son was murdered – a crime that went global because of its brutality and the age of James’ 10-year-old killers.
On February 12 1993, James Bulger was abducted from a shopping mall where he was with his mother Denise.
His father says not taking James to work with him that day is “the biggest single regret” of his life.
He says his wife Denise told him she was buying meat at a butcher’s, and “only let go of [James] for a second”.
Mr Bulger admits he unfairly blamed his wife during his grief, but is now deeply ashamed of doing so.
Two days after James’ disappearance, CCTV images showed him leaving the mall with two young boys.
Mr Bulger says he smiled with relief, as there was every chance the boys had taken James as a prank.
He told his wife: “He’s with two young kids – he’s gonna be all right.”
However, James’ body was found the next day.
Mr Bulger says he felt a rush of nausea upon hearing the news.
“My stomach was in agonising spasms and my limbs turned to jelly. I began retching but nothing came up. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror I saw a stranger. My eyes looked like they were going to pop out of my head, blazing with anger and bloodshot from tears and rage.”
“But most of all I could see shame and disgust. I hated myself because my son was dead. I had failed to protect my own flesh and blood.”
Mr Bulger says he and his wife were “trapped in a world of pain that no one else could ever understand”.
“Denise was inconsolable,” he says. “To hear your wife crying in such a way is unbearable. It was like listening to a wounded animal.”
He says the only thing that stopped him from taking his own life was that he would be letting James down again.
James’ body was found on a railway line and had been severed by a train.
The two-year-old was brutalised and tortured before he was put on the train track and left to die.
Mr Bulger says he had been badly beaten, there was damage to his genitals and his body was splattered with blue paint.
It was later learned James suffered 42 injuries, and died some time before the train hit him.
When found, James was still wearing his coat but the lower half of his body, which was further down the tracks, was naked.
Mr Bulger says police found his blood-soaked underwear close by, along with bricks, stones, iron bars, AA batteries and a tin of blue paint.
After details were publicly released, police received a visit from a woman who was a friend of the Venables family.
She said Jon Venables had skipped school with another boy named Robert Thompson on the day James went missing, and had blue paint on his coat when he returned home.
At Jon Venables’ house, police found a small handprint in paint on his coat.
When a detective paid Robert Thompson a visit, the boy panicked and began to cry.
Mr Bulger says at the police station Jon admitted to killing James, but blamed everything on Robert.
“He said it was his idea to take him, but it was Robert’s idea to kill him.”
“He claimed Robert threw bricks and hit James with an iron bar. Jon said he had thrown small stones.”
Robert denied any involvement in the attack and Detective Sergeant Phil Roberts, the officer in charge, says he never eventually told the truth.
Mr Bulger says Robert had no problem with being charged.
“I thought to myself, ‘This boy has caused so much misery and evil.’ I didn’t look for the three sixes on the back of his head, but at that moment I thought he was the devil.”
The two boys were the youngest people to be charged with murder in the 20th century.
They were convicted of the crime and ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, which is the substitute sentence for life imprisonment if the offender is a juvenile.
In 2001 both boys were granted anonymity for the rest of their lives and were released under new identities.
According to the Ministry of Justice, Jon Venables was returned to prison in 2010 after breaching the terms of his release.
James’ father says the two boys had plenty of opportunities to walk away and let his son live, but they never showed any compassion for him.
He describes them as being “evil beyond belief”, saying their only concern was to cover up the crime.