I still remember the moment I first read about James Bulger’s murder.
I was 10 years old. The same age as his killers.
I was visiting my grandparents and I had just been to the bathroom and my hands smelt like my nan’s floral-scented hand wash. When I returned to the living room, I saw the faces of two young boys staring up at me from the front page of the newspaper.
Curious, I picked up the paper. For hours, I pored over the story of two-year-old James’ last moments.
I will never forget the feeling of turning the page, of the story expanding, of the sickly sweet scent of my hands. It was the first time I truly understood that humans could do terrible things to each other.
This was the story that sparked my life-long interest in true crime. It was also the moment I knew I never wanted to experience the nightmare James’ parents, Denise and Ralph, were going through.
The nightmare didn’t end for them that day when I finally put down the newspaper and went outside to play.
It hasn’t ended at any point in the past two and a half decades.
They will never be able to forget James’ last moments. They’ll never be able to forget that something terrible happened to their child at the hands of other children.
They’ll never know when they open a newspaper, or turn on a TV, or drive past a billboard, if they will be reminded of the worst day of their life. Again.
Now, 26 years later, they’re about to face the biggest reminder. Irish filmmaker Vincent Lambe has made a short film called Detainment, which has just been shortlisted for an Academy Award.
Detainment tells the story of James’ murder and, more specifically, the story of his killers – Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.
Ralph, now 52, told The Mirror that not only is the content of the film “offensive”, neither he nor anyone from his family had been contacted by Lambe prior to its creation.
“It has been 26 years since my son was taken and murdered and so I have seen many documentaries and news stories about him,” he said.