Murderers. Serial killers. Depraved flesh-eating maniacs. The world is overrun with them.

Every day brings another horror story. And sometimes, it seems like nothing new can shock us.

Well, until we hear of 10-year-olds gruesomely torturing and killing a toddler. Until we meet the James Bulger story.

This story rocked England and the world in the early 90s. And it’s a sad reminder that evil can lurk in unfathomable places – in the most cherubic faces.

The story makes us realize that it knows no age and would strike when we least expect it. This tale would curdle your insides in anger and disbelief. You’ve been warned.

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10 The Deed

The 12th of February started like any other day at the New Strand Shopping Center in Bootle, Merseyside, England. Everyone was busy getting things or selling things. So, no one thought much of the two boys wandering around the stalls.

They were 10-year-old Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. And they were playing truant.

They had fun shoplifting a small can of blue paint, some batteries, and other odds and ends. But, they soon got bored with that. And so, they zeroed in on two-year-old James Bulger.

He had wandered off when his mom, Denise, looked away to pay the butcher for their pork chops. A moment she would regret all her life.


9 They Had Tried It Before

Venables and Thompson didn’t just decide to lead James out of the mall on a whim.  They had tried to kidnap another boy before him. The two children had stalked the first kid and had snatched him when his mom turned her back. 

Venables and Thompson even succeeded at getting the boy out of the store before the child’s mother spotted them and swooped in to rescue her child.

Later, during their interview with the police, they would admit that they intended to push a child into the heavy traffic.



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8 People Saw Them With James

After successfully leading James away by the hand, Venables and Thompson took him to a nearby canal. There, they lifted James and then dropped him on his head. 

For some reason, Venables and Thompson decided to take their victim across Liverpool (a neighboring metropolitan city).

They passed at least 30 people along the way, and only two asked why they were walking a tiny, wailing toddler with a bloody bump on his head.

Venables and Thompson lied that he was their brother and even told someone that James was a lost child they were taking to the police station.

They led poor James to a railway station in Walton, 2.5 miles away from the shopping center.

7 They Showed No Mercy

At the train tracks, the boys stripped little James Bulger. They removed his shoes, socks, and trousers before they proceeded to beat the life out of the kid.

Venables and Thompson repeatedly stomped on James, kicked him, and even threw bricks at the poor child. They threw their shoplifted paint in his eye and forced batteries into his mouth.

The police speculate that they inserted some into his anus as well. Pathology reports after his death also showed that James’ foreskin had also been forcibly pulled back.

They weren’t finished. These two boys then dropped a 22-pound iron bar (a railway fishplate) on his head to finish him off. James didn’t die.

And so, they laid him across the tracks and weighted his head with stones, hoping that a train would finish the job. A train did come. Severing James’ body in two.

6 The Search For The Murderers

James’ Bulger’s body was found two days later, on Valentine’s day. The nation was shocked. And the police swung into action.

Soon enough, the police found a CCTV video from the shopping center, which showed James being led out by the hand by an unidentified ‘youth’ and another ‘youth’ walking in front.

The images weren’t clear, so that the police couldn’t determine the age of the suspects. They thought the boys were teenagers. The footage picture was widely broadcast in the hopes that someone would identify the boys. 

England was on edge. Fortunately, one woman recognized Venables and contacted the police. The boys were arrested.

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5 Trial

The police found damning evidence on Venables’ and Thompson’s clothes and shoes. And so on, they were charged with James Bulger’s murder.

There was understandable outrage on the issue. Not only was a toddler tortured barbarically and murdered, but his murderers were also KIDS themselves!

On the day of their trial, five hundred protesters showed up at the court demanding justice.  The media weren’t allowed to publish their names for their safety. Instead, they were referred to as Child A and Child B.

Venables and Thompson were tried as adults. The court decided that they were mature enough to know what they did was terribly wrong. 

And so on the 24th of November, 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were found guilty of Bulger’s murder. The youngest convicted murderers in the 20th century.

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4 Why Did They Do It?

Till now, no one knows what made Venables and Thompson do what they did. After the trial, there a lot of speculations on their motive. 

The media blame it on violent scenes in movies, “video nasties,” and assumed that they had gotten their idea from the blockbuster movie Child Play 3

Detectives ruled this assumption out. They pointed out that even though the Chucky doll in Child Play 3 does get splashed with blue paint, there are no strong links between any movies in the duo’s house and the crime.

Some say that there may have been a sexual undertone behind their actions. And the fact that Bulger was stripped waist-down and molested buttresses this point.

3 Maybe It Was Their Upbringing?

Another theory that went around was that Venables and Thompson’s turbulent background might have warped their thinking.

It was discovered that their father physically and sexually abused Thompson and his siblings. The man also regularly beat their mum.

And even after he left, Thompson’s siblings continued the physical abuse without any intervention from his mum, an alcoholic.

Venables had a relatively easier childhood. Yes, his parents were estranged, but his family was more economically stable than Thompson’s. Also, he wasn’t bullied and was even described as a bully in school.

2 Life Outside Bars

The two boys, now men, were released in June 2001. They were considered at risk of being harmed and were given new identities.

They were also given orders not to return to Merseyside and to always report to their probation officer, amongst other strict rules. There was also a worldwide injunction against revealing the names or identities of the two.

In fact, since 2001, there’s been a slew of contempt cases against people who had posted pictures and articles, claiming to know the identity and location of Venables and Thompson.

Jon Venables has been frequently jailed for possessing child pornography images, reinforcing the sexual motive theory.

At the same time, Robert Thompson’s life has been relatively quiet. It was last rumored that he was in a stable relationship with a man who knew what he had done.

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1 Denise's Fight

Various articles have been written about the famous Bulger murder. And in 2019, a short film that tried to humanize the two murderers, Detainment, was even nominated for an Oscar. 

Bulger’s mom, Denise, fought to remove it from the nominations. And she has been steadfast in her quest to keep the memory of her son sacred.

Her efforts even caused the recall of a game that used the CCTV image of her son’s abduction and the cancellation of a Hollyoaks’ episode.

You may feel rage and shock. You may even pity Venables and Thompson. But, the fact remains that the life of a guileless two-year-old was horrifically snuffed out. He will never laugh or play or have a family. He is gone.

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