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Murder of James Bulger


The murder of James Bulger was one of Britain’s most shocking one, not only for how the victim was killed, who was only two, but also because the killers were 10 years old.

The abduction

James is a two year old and on 12th February 1993 he is with his mother in the city’s shopping center.The mother briefly leaves the little unguarded for just a few moments and two children take him by hand, taking him out of the mall.

The two children are Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, both 10, who that day have decided to skip school to go to the mall to steal some things. Prior to kidnapping James, they steal a jar of blue paint, batteries and toy soldiers.

Then, getting more and more bored, one of them says

“Why don’t we take a child?”

Their original idea was to take him out into the street to cause an accident, but what they did was much more terrible.

They made James walk for several miles, beating him and kicking him. 

Who saw them just had the impression that they were just three siblings, but someone, seeing James’wounds and hearing him cry, realized that something was not right.

However, when someone asked them what had happened they replied that they were returning home with their little brother, or that they had found the child alone crying and they were taking him to the police. Amazingly no one stopped them.

Later it was discovered that the three had been seen by 38 people, some of whom had seen the two mistreating the little James, but no one intervened. 

This was a typical case of “bystander effect”, the social psychological phenomenon in which individuals do not offer aid to a victim if they are in the presence of other people.

The murder of James Bulger

Thompson and Venable while kidnapping James

After walking for about two and a half miles they stopped near a railroad.

There tortured the little James: first throwing blue pain in his face , then hitting him with bricks and stones and finally with an iron bar weighting 22 pounds. 

They put the batteries in his mouth, kicked him and Thompson hit him so hard that the imprint of his shoe stayed impressed on the little body for several days. Then they dropped his trousers and played with his genitals.

When they finished torturing him they left him, still alive, on the train tracks so that the whole thing would pass as an accident. James was sliced ​​in two by a train.

The body was found on February 14th and the two were arrested on the 22nd of the same month.

The arrest

After ​​a video from CCTV was released to the public where the two kids were seen taking James by hand, a woman recognized them and alerted the police. The two were arrested on 22nd February.

During the interrogation they blamed each other and it was impossible to determine who did what. Thompson remained calm, while Venables became hysterical, crying all the time.

Before long he began to confess, however, giving all the blame to Thompson. He admitted that he only threw stones at James and hurried to clarify that they were small and smooth and that he had missed hitting him on purpose.

Thompson meanwhile accused Venables saying:

“I have a 2 year old brother, if I wanted to kill a child I could have killed him”

He said he tried to save James and that he didn’t touch him but the imprint of the shoe found on the little body turned out to be Thompson’s.

Some psychologists attributed the cause of the homicide to the film “Child’s Play 3”, movie rented by the two children a month before the murder.

The trial

During the trial the two were called “child A ” and “child B” but at the end of the process the names were revealed due to the severity of the crime committed. The murder had a huge impact on public opinion and it created dismay and indignation.

The parents of the two murderers were forced to change their name and move because of death threats.

Thompson and Venables were tried as adults and the two were sentenced to 10 years in a juvenile prison. The sentence was later reduced to eight years on the basis of good behavior and remorse shown over the years.

After 8 years in 2001, they were released under a false name and prevented from seeing each other.

In 2010 Venables was arrested again for possession of child pornography and was sentenced to two years. Since 2013 he is back on the streets.


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