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The murder of toddler James Bugler is about to be debated in Parliament, according to his father. More than 200,000 people supported a petition in 2018 calling for a public inquiry into the killing that took place almost 30 years ago.
The bid had been backed by James’ mum, Denise Fergus, but it was turned down by the government. However, the subject is now back on the political agenda and is poised to be discussed by MPs in the coming weeks.
Two year old James was murdered by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both aged 10, in 1993. They were released on licence after serving eight years in secure children’s units and were subsquently given life time anonymity.
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Venables, 39, has since been returned to prison twice for child abuse images and is still behind bars. But he has launched a new bid for parole and could be freed later this year.
A debate on the murder of James and its aftermath is now being considered by the House of Commons’ Petitions Committee. And James’ father Ralph Bulger has renewed the call for a public enquiry and for Venables to be stripped of his anonymity.
He also wants a probe into why the killers were released after just eight years and would like those behind the decision to be made accountable. Ralph has also called for an investigation into the possible sexual motives behind the murder and answers about why his family were not given counselling after their son’s death.
He told the Mirror : “A public inquiry is long overdue so we can flush out the truth about so many issues. But top of my list must be why Venables is still one of the very few people in this country who still has lifelong anonymity despite his repeated offending against children.
“I don’t buy the argument that his life would be in danger. If that was the case, they would have to give secret identities to every child abuser and killer in the UK.”
He added: “I said from day one that the attack on James was sexual but because the killers were just ten, no-one could get their head around it. The evidence was there, but it was swept under the carpet.
“The public deserves to know everything about this case including why those in authority believed they had been rehabilitated. James’s murder took me and my entire family to the brink of despair and yet we got nothing. No counselling, moral support, or help.
“Yet James’s killers were treated with kid gloves, given every luxury, and looked after by the best psychiatrists, doctors and counsellors in the land.”
He added: “There is a mountain of issues to address and the truth needs to come out.”
A 2018 online petition calling for a Public Inquiry received almost 214,000 signatures. The government rejected the call but weeks later Petitions Committee agreed MPs could discuss the issues in Parliament.
And now, four years later, that debate is set to happen. Ralph, 55, who lost a legal challenge to Venables’ anonymity order in 2019, said: “A public inquiry is long overdue so we can flush out the truth about so many issues.
“My family has been lied to by the authorities for nearly 30 years and we owe it to James to know what really went on. I have so many questions that need answering and only an open independent inquiry can address them.
“All victims and their families should be treated with more respect and dignity and at the end of the day, I want to see true transparency in this case. I want answers to the questions that have burned inside me for almost 30 years.”
Feb 1993 James Bulger is snatched from the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside. His body is found two days later on a railway line. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both aged 10, are later arrested.
Nov 1993 The pair are convicted of James’s murder at Preston crown court.
July 1994 The eight year sentence set by the trial judge, which was increased to 10 years by Lord Chief Justice Lord Taylor of Gosforth, is increased to 15 years by the Home Secretary Michael Howard.
October 2000 Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf reinstates the trial judge’s original tariff, paving the way for their release.
Jan 2001 The killers are granted lifetime anonymity and freed the following June.
March 2010 Venables is returned to prison after breaching the terms of his release.
July 2010 Venables admits offences relating to child abuse images and is jailed for two years.
July 2013 Venables is granted parole.
Nov 2017 Venables is recalled to prison.
Feb 2018 He is jailed for 40 months for possession of child abuse images.
Sept 2020 Venables is refused parole.
Feb 2022 He starts a new bid for parole.