Kids who kill: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

Kids Who Kill: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

  • A shocking story of two 10-year-olds who abducted and brutally murdered a 2-year-old, leaving the toddler’s mutilated body on railway tracks for a train to run over.
  • Because the boys were minors, they were released after a short prison sentence. The more deranged one of the two, Venables, was returned to prison on suspected child pornography charges.
  • In 2011 it was reported that Venables would once again be given a new identity after an incident that revealed his whereabouts.

Children are seen by society as innocent and pure, without malice. But sometimes the unthinkable happens – children kill. Such was the shocking story of two 10-year-old’s, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson from England, who killed and mutilated the body of 2-year-old James Bulger.

On that fateful day, the troubled boys were skipping school and wandering around a busy mall, stealing sweets, batteries and a bucket of paint – items that were later to be found at the murder scene. Casually observing children, they were looking for a child to abduct. The plan was to lead the victim to the busy road and push him into the path of oncoming traffic.

The boys themselves were later not able to explain the motive; it just happened, they said.

James Bulger missing

James Patrick Bulger was born in 1990 to Ralph and Denise Bulger - a couple who had previously lost a stillborn daughter. Always smiling and healthy, James filled them with joy and made them laugh. His life was just starting out.

James Bulger
James Bulger. Rest in peace little angel.

Everything changed on February the 12th, 1993. James was out shopping with his mother in the New Strand Shopping Centre near Kirkby, England. His mother Denise was briefly distracted inside a butcher’s shop on the lower floor of the center. A minute later she realized her son had disappeared. James had been wandering by the open door of the shop when Thompson and Venables caught his attention and lured him out of the mall at 3:42 pm.

A CCTV footage of Jon Venables and James Bulger with James Thompson
CCTV footage showing Venables and Thompson leading James Bulger out of the mall.

Denise panicked and headed to the mall’s security office. She described her son’s appearance and what was he wearing: a blue jacket and grey sweat suit, a blue scarf with a white cat on it and a t-shirt with the word ‘Noddy’ on it. For security, it was a routine day. They often had to announce the description of a lost child over the loudspeaker so that parents could reunite with their child at the information centre. But what started off as a lost child in the mall, turned out to be one of the most prolific missing child cases in the history of the UK.

At 4:15 pm, the local Police Station was notified.

The Murder of James Bulger

Sometimes he ran ahead, other times he fell behind. The boys were walking around aimlessly until they reached a nearby canal and proceeded to go under a bridge to an isolated area. There, they dropped James on his head. Venables and Thompson ran away, leaving the toddler crying. A lady saw James sobbing and assumed he was just playing with the local kids.

In his utter innocence, bruised and crying, James followed the boys once again. Several witnesses saw them and later described a boy crying and older boys kicking him. No one intervened, thinking that older brothers were just fooling around and watching over their younger sibling.

James Bulger alive
Little James Bulger, happy and alive.

At approximately 5:30 pm, after more than a two-mile hike, Venables and Thompson decided to go to the railway tracks to finish the business. Between 5:45p m and 6:30 pm, James was brutally murdered.

The assault began with the boys pouring the stolen paint from the mall into James’ eyes. They pulled off his pants and underwear, mutilated his foreskin and inserted batteries into his anus. They kicked, threw stones and eventually smashed his skull with an iron bar. When they believed James was dead, they laid his body on the tracks, covering his bleeding head with bricks and rubbish, making it look like an accident.

They left just before the train came. The forensic pathologist of the case, Dr. Alan Williams, stated that James suffered so many injuries – 42 in total – that he was not able to confirm any one of them as the fatal blow, beyond the fact that he had died before the train cut his body in half.

James Bulger Collage
Devasted: Ralph Bulger (left) and Denise Fergus (right).

Police got a hold of the CCTV footage of James’ abduction. The disappearance made the evening news and calls immediately poured in. Two days later, the severed body was found lying on the tracks. When the circumstances became public, the crime scene was flooded with hundreds of bouquets of flowers. The tabloids denounced the people who had seen the abduction but had not intervened to aid him.

James Bulger Crime Scene
Police investigate the crime scene where the body of James Bulger was found in February 1993.

Three days later, a breakthrough came when a woman recognised Venables on the released low-resolution photo from the CCTV footage. The tip-off led to an arrest and the boys were taken to separate police stations where they gave a total of 20 interviews over three days.

Below is a cut of one of the many chilling interviews the boys gave in 1993.

The boys confessed and were found guilty on the 24th of November, 1993, and received the sentence that would keep them behind bars for at least until they reached the age of 25. This decision made Venables and Thompson the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history and the youngest convicted murderers of the 20th century.

Funeral of Jamie Bulger
Funeral of James Bulger. His coffin is carried by his grieving father Ralph Bulger.

If you want to support Ralph Bulger, he has co-authored a book called My James and it is available on Amazon. In the book, he pays tribute to his son and discusses the long legal battle to see justice for James.

If you're interested in the case, the complete account that details not only the crime itself but the prior lives of the killers, the trial, and investigation, The Sleep of Reason: The James Bulger Case is the book to read. It's available Amazon. It's an older book with an updated edition that includes developments in the case through the years. Don't be put off by the lackluster cover. The imprint is from "Faber Finds, and apparently, that is their style. It looks like a college text, but what's inside is excellent.

Jon Venables' HQ mugshot
Jon Venables.
Ralph Bulger and Jamie Bulger's tombstone.
Ralph Bulger: The father of murder victim Jamie Bulger.

Where are Jon Venables and Robert Thompson now?

Jon Venables was detained in St. Helens on Merseyside, the same facility where another notorious British child killer Mary Bell was living for half of her 12-year sentence. He was released in 2002, but quickly returned to prison and was released once again in 2011. The locations of both boys throughout their sentences were not publicly known until their release.

Robert Thompson was held at the Barton Moss Secure Care Centre in Manchester. He was released at the age of 23, in June 2001. The testimonials from staff were mainly positive. However, he never showed remorse or interest in the crime nor in his victim. When Thompson was released he moved in with his gay lover despite having a girlfriend. Thompson is a free man, with a new identity and anonymity granted by the government. According to public sources, he has not reoffended.

British newspapers about the release of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
British newspapers when they learned Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were released from the prison. As you can expect, they were outraged.

Rumours & Subsequent Events

Jon Venables appears to be the most deranged one of the two. Soon after his release, he was returned to prison on suspected child pornography charges. In 2011, it was reported that Venables would once again (!) be given a new identity after an incident that revealed his whereabouts.

The Wrongly Accused

The British public and press are keen to know who and where Venables and Thompson are. Especially Venables, who was recalled to prison reportedly over allegations involving child pornography. Denise Fergus, the mother of James Bulger, believes the public has a right to know why Venables was recalled and if he has committed other probation breaches – information that is protected by the High Court injunction. Because of the protection the two men get from the government, online witch hunts have ruined the lives of innocent people.

Scott Bradley

Scott Bradley was regularly verbally abused after a hate mob falsely identified him as Robert Thompson. He took his own life. In his suicide letter, he wrote: They called me all sorts – a pedophile, a follower of young girls, walking around bullying old people. The list is endless.

Thompson and Venables not only killed James Bulger, but also Scott Bradley.

The grieving mother of Scott Bradley on her son's death: My son was tormented by the allegations. He had a good heart and didn't deserve this. It’s been heartbreaking.

Documentary about Venables & Thompson

A BBC documentary that aired after Jon Venables was re-incarcerated in 2010 for downloading and sharing child pornography on the Internet. In June 2011 a new parole request was denied, but on July 4th, 2013, the parole was granted and Venables was once again given a new identity and freedom.

A school photo of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
A school photo of Robert Thompson (left) and Jon Venables (right).
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