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What we know about James Bulger's killer Jon Venables

Yahoo News UK rounds up the events surrounding the murder of toddler James Bulger as his killer remains in jail.

Child killer Jon Venables will spend the next two years in jail.  (PA)
Child killer Jon Venables will spend the next two years in jail. (PA)

Child killer Jon Venables will spend another two years in jail after the deadline to appeal his sentence passed.

Venables was just 10 years old when he and Robert Thompson, who was also 10, tortured and killed two-year-old James Bulger after snatching him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993. Both boys were jailed for life but released on licence with new identities in 2001. However, Venables was jailed again for possessing indecent images of children.

In December last year, Venables lost his bid to be released from jail in a private parole hearing that ruled he still poses a danger to children and could go on to offend again. He had 21 days to submit an appeal but the deadline has now passed and he will remain in jail for the next two years.

James' mother Denise Fergus, 54, told The Mirror that it meant it “gives us our life back for another two years” by “knowing nothing he can do can affect our life or that of others. She added: “It allows us space to breathe and to focus on the happiness in our lives.”

According to a summary of the parole board’s decision last month, Venables had “accepted that he had a long-term sexual interest in children/indecent images of children”, despite taking part in a “considerable amount of work in prison to address this area of risk”. He had a history of taking drugs and secretly trying to use the internet in breach of licence conditions.

The panel was “concerned by continuing issues of sexual preoccupation in this case”, warning there are “future risks” of him viewing more child sexual abuse images and of him “progressing to offences where he might have contact with children”.

The body’s decision said: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and on licence, and the evidence presented in the dossier, the panel was not satisfied that release at this point would be safe for the protection of the public.”

Here, Yahoo News UK looks at the events surrounding Bulger's death and what happened to his killers:

James Bulger's murder

James Bulger was two years old when he was brutally murdered. (PA)
James Bulger was two years old when he was brutally murdered. (PA)

James Bulger was in the New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside, on 12 February 1993 when he was led away by Venables and Thompson.

James’ mother, Denise, was distracted in a butcher’s shop at the time her son was taken.

CCTV footage showed him being taken by the hand by the boys, in an image that shocked the nation.

It was later revealed that 38 people saw the three boys together, but most did not attempt to intervene or left when Venables and Thompson claimed they were all brothers.

Venables and Thompson took James to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, where he was dropped on his head and suffered facial injuries.

James was then tortured at a railway line in Walton, suffering 10 skull fractures before he died of his injuries.

His body was left on train tracks to make it look like he died of an accident and it was found two days later by a group of children.

Tests later revealed he died before being hit by a train.

What happened to Jon Venables?

A video still showed James Bulger being led away from the shopping centre he had gone to with his mother. (PA)
A video still showed James Bulger being led away from the shopping centre he had gone to with his mother. (PA)

Venables, along with Thompson, was found guilty of murder in November 1993 – making them the youngest convicted murderers of the 20th century.

He was sentenced to a minimum of eight years in a juvenile detention centre.

Venables was released in 2001 and was given a new identity, but he was arrested in 2008 after a drunken fight and given a formal warning by the probation service.

He was also cautioned for cocaine possession.

Venables was sent back to prison in 2010 for possessing indecent images of children and was released in 2013 following a recommendation from the parole board.

However, in 2017 he was arrested again for possessing child abuse images and was given a 40-month sentence.

In 2020 the parole board ruled that Venables, whose identity has been changed twice after it was discovered, should not be released.

His parole board hearing in November means he could be out of prison before the end of 2023.

What happened to Robert Thompson?

Robert Thompson has not re-offended since being released. (PA)
Robert Thompson has not re-offended since being released. (PA)

After being sentenced to a minimum of eight years for murder, Thompson was also released in 2001 and given a new identity.

It was reported that during his time at Barton Moss secure unit in Eccles, Lancashire, Thompson passed five GCSEs and had taken his A-levels.

His new identity is protected by an unprecedented injunction, which applies around the world.

The injunction means that attempting to track down his whereabouts – even just searching for his address – could result in a prison sentence.

Thompson has not reoffended since his release and it was reported in 2010 that he was in a relationship with a man who knows his true identity.

What conversation did it spark?

JAMES BULGER'S FUNERAL. WREATHES LAID NEAR THE GRAVE OF MURDERED JAMES BULGER AFTER HIS FUNERAL SERVICE.
Wreathes laid near the grave of James Bulger following his funeral. (PA)

In the immediate aftermath of the jailing of Venables and Thompson, some sections of the media began to question the reasons behind the murder, with focus on so-called ‘video nasties’.

It had emerged that the horror film Child’s Play 3 was one of the films Venables’ father had rented in the months prior to the killing.

However, it was never established whether Venables had ever watched it and detectives dismissed the influence of that movie – or any other – on the murder.

Further public conversation took place around the age of criminal responsibility and how society deals with young offenders.

In England and Wales, the age of criminal responsibility has been 10 since 1963 – lower than what it is in much of Europe, where the age is 14.

The background of young offenders – which often features a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse – has also come under the spotlight when it comes to dealing with youngsters involved with serious crimes.

Critics also argue that jailing people when they are children increases their chances of reoffending when released.