Too Little, Too Late for Justice
Date Added: July 17, 2001
Unfortunately, this tale of a brutal child-on-child crime is true, but this call to action is too little, too late.
Do you recall this incident - it had national news coverage:
On February 12, 1993 a small boy who was to turn three in March was taken from a shopping mall in Liverpool by two 10 year old boys. Jamie Bulger walked away from his mother for only a second and Jon Venables took his hand and led him out of the mall with his friend Robert Thompson. They took Jamie on a walk for over 2 and a half miles, along the way stopping every now and again to torture the poor little boy who was crying constantly for his mommy. Finally they stopped at a railway track where they brutally kicked him, threw stones at him, rubbed paint in his eyes and pushed batteries up his anus.
It was actually worse than this. What these two boys did was so horrendous that Jamie's mother was forbidden to identify his body. They then left his beaten small body on the tracks so a train could run him over to hide the mess they had created. These two boys, even being boys understood what they did was wrong, hence trying to make it look like an accident. This week Lady Justice Butler-Sloss has awarded the two boys anonymity for the rest of their lives when they leave custody with new identities. We cannot let this happen. They will also leave early this year only serving just over half of their sentence. One paper even stated that Robert may go on to University. They are getting away with their crime. They need to pay, and we have to do something to make them pay for their horrific crime. They took Jamie's life violently away, and in return they get a new life.
Please add your name and location to the list and forward to friends and family. Please copy this e-mail instead of forwarding so we do not get ">" at the beginning of sentences. If you are the 200th person to sign please forward this e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org (Attention it to Lady Justice Butler-Sloss) Then start the list over again and send to your friends and family.
The Love-Bug virus took less that 72 hours to reach the world. I hope this one does too. We need to protect our family and friends from creatures like Robert and Jon. One day they may be living next to you and your small children without your knowledge. If Robert and Jon could be so evil at 10, imagine what they could do as adults?
Sadly, the events described are fundamentally true. Ten-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson did, indeed, kidnap James Bulger and are responsible for his brutal torture and death (just weeks shy of James' third birthday). The murder sent a wave of shock and disgust throughout the UK. Despite authorities' attempts to keep publicity on the case to a minimum, the media fed an already hyperactive public rumor mill. While the basic story told above is true, it is peppered with rumors and exaggerations not supported by official accounts.
On February 12, 1993, Venables and Thompson skipped school and went to the Bootle Strand Shopping Centre in Merseyside, U.K. That morning, they attempted to kidnap a two-year-old boy while his mother shopped, only to fail when the mother missed the child and called him back. Undeterred, Venables and and Thompson tried again that afternoon, this time successfully leading James Bulger away from his mother and the shopping centre. They embarked on a two-and-a-half mile trek during which they dropped, kicked and beat the toddler. No fewer than 38 witnesses saw the boys and noticed James' injuries. While some approached the boys to see what was going on, none interceded on James' behalf, being placated by the older boys' assertions that the younger was their brother and they were seeing to his well-being. This lack of action by more than three dozen people would later spark its own media-fueled outrage.
When the three arrived at isolated railway tracks near Walton, Merseyside, Thompson and Venables threw blue modeling paint in Bulger's face and beat him with bricks, stones and a 22 lb iron bar. He was sexually assaulted, but not anally penetrated (official reports claim that batteries were inserted in the boy's mouth, not anus, as the chain letter claims). Venables and Thompson then laid the boy's body across the tracks and weighed his head down with stones in hopes that a train strike would hide the evidence of their actions. James' body was found two days later, having been run over by a train, though pathologists report that the boy was dead long before.
Public outrage at the murder was instant and severe, fed by tabloid media that pushed - and often broke - the law to report details on the case. After the boys' names and mugshots were made public, their families had to be moved to different parts of the country and have their identities changed to protect them from death threats.
During the trial, the boys offered no defense and were subsequently found guilty and sentenced to a young offenders institution. Their sentence was at "Her Majesty's Pleasure" - a British legal term for an indefinite sentence often used as a substitute to life sentencing for minors. The sentence is reviewed by the Government from time-to-time, and the trial judge set the minimum sentence at eight years. It was later increased to ten years on appeal. Then, Home Secretary Michael Howard increased the sentence to 15 years. However, Howard's move was harshly criticized as being politically motivated and was overturned in 1997. In 2000, citing good behavior during their detention, Thompson's and Venables' sentences were reduced by two years, effectively restoring the original eight-year term.
Two possible motivators of the boys' actions were heatedly discussed, both in the courtroom as well as in public discourse and the media: video violence and domestic violence. Venables and Thompson had access to a collection of violent films, though no testimony that the boys had been watching them was presented at their trial. The media, however, printed a list of such films (including Child's Play 3, in which a possessed doll kills children), which they alleged may have motivated the boys and which were subsequently banned and voluntarily removed by several video rental chains.
Both of the killers came from difficult family backgrounds and grew up in a community hard-hit by a floundering economy and sky-high unemployment. Thompson was one of seven children being raised by an alcoholic single mother. The children were brutal to each other, with a history of violence, assault and attempted suicide. Venables' background was less tragic. The boy lived in shared custody of his mother and father, who lived near each other. His two siblings had significant learning disabilities and his mother was severely depressed and suicidal. Jon was hyperactive and was prone to violence.
In June, 2001, after a six-month review of their case, the parole board determined the boys were no longer a public threat and made them eligible for release since their minimum sentence of eight years had expired (the chain letter above appears to be referencing the artificially inflated 15-year term imposed by Howard when it claims that only half of the boys' sentence was served). The boys were released that summer on a life license, which means that, at any point in their lives, if they are determined to be a danger to public safety, they will be returned to incarceration. They were given new identities and relocated to different parts of the country. It was feared at the time that the boys' new identities and locations would soon be become public.
Versions of this e-mail "petition" have been circulating since early 2000, but gained widespread popularity only after the boys' release in 2001, rendering the petition's primary purpose - the prevention of Venables' and Thompson's release - a moot point. In the spring 2005, versions of the chain began alleging that the killers were being relocated Australia (a totally unsubstantiated claim). Another version surfacing in 2005 "Americanized" the tale, incorrectly placing the horrendous events in Liverpool, NY.
Many folks have told me that they don't care that the petition is outdated - they were going to forward it, anyway, in hopes that knowledge of the case may prevent a future tragedy. However, BreakTheChain.org recommends against participating in or propagating any e-mail petition because they are relatively ineffective and rife with problems, as illustrated by the Seven Tests of Armchair Activism:
In October, 2005, Jamie's mother and killers were once again in the headlines as Denise Fergus publicly objected to reports that both of her son's killers may have broken the terms of their release. In June, 2005, a national (UK) newspaper reported that Jon Venables had been treated in a Merseyside hospital for injuries stemming from assault. A term of his probation is that he is not permitted to enter the county of Merseyside without official permission or an escort. A September article in the same paper reported that Robert Thompson, now 24, had been prescribed methadone, presumably to treat a heroine addiction. Use of an illegal (or Class A drug) is illegal and, thus, a violation of his probation. Fergus is publicly calling for an investigation of what she feels is a blatant mishandling of the killers' probation. Break this Chain.
References: Wikipedia, Snopes.com, About.com, TruthOrFiction.com, Liverpool Daily Post