They sexually abused him before beating him to death using bricks and an iron bar
Two days before St Valentine’s Day 1993, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, both just ten years old, abducted James Bulger, a month away from his third birthday, from Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside. James had been with his mother Denise and he wandered away from her as she shopped in a butcher’s.
Thompson and Venables who were playing truant from school had spent six hours trying to steal a child. When James left his mother’s side at 3.40pm they pounced and left the shopping centre within two minutes.
They took him 4 km (2.5 mi) to a railway line near Walton Lane police station and Anfield cemetery. There they sexually abused James and threw paint in his eyes before beating him to death using bricks and an iron bar. They pushed a battery up his back passage. After they had amused themselves, they placed his body on the track, covering it with bricks and bits of wood where it was cut in two by a passing train. James’s body lay undiscovered until 14 February.
CCTV allowed the police to identify the two killers and they arrested Thompson and Venables and charged them with murder on 20 February. They were also charged with the attempted abduction of another child on the same day. Remarkably, 38 people had seen the evil duo with James Bulger but none had thought to intervene even though he was crying and some testified that they had seen a large wound on his head and saw him being kicked.
The trial of Thompson and Venables opened on 1 November 1993 at Preston Crown Court. Twenty-three days later they became the youngest people to be convicted of murder in British criminal history. Venables cried in court but Thompson remained impassive. The judge, Sir Michael Morland, recommended that they serve a minimum of eight years but the Lord Chief Justice Taylor of Gosforth raised their minimum sentence to ten years.
Home Secretary Michael Howard further increased their sentence to 15 years after a petition raised by James’s parents collected 207,000 signatures.
Strand Shopping Centre, 73 The Hexagon, Bootle, Merseyside, England
Friday 12 February 1993
Thompson and Venables went to the European Court of Human Rights in 1999 and were released on parole in June 2001 after serving eight years and four months. Their new identities were protected for life.