true crime

In 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson killed James Bulger. This is what happened to them next.

Twenty-six years ago, the horrific murder of a tiny boy in England shocked the world.

On February 12, 1993, 10-year-old boys Jon Venables and Robert Thompson abducted two-year-old toddler James Bulger.

While his mother was momentarily distracted, the two boys led the toddler away from a shopping centre in Kirkby, Merseyside.

In the hours that followed, two-year-old Bulger was horrendously tortured and killed before being left by nearby rail tracks.

His body was discovered two days later.

On November 24, 1993, Thompson and Venables, then aged 11, became the youngest convicted murders in modern British history.

Sentencing the two boys to a minimum sentence of eight years, the judge, Mr Justice Morland, declared that the pair had committed a crime of “unparalleled evil and barbarity”.

In 2001, after eight years in prison, Thompson and Venables were released on life-long parole, and given new identities.

James Bulger was killed in 1993. Image: Getty.

What happened to Jon Venables?

Jon Venables was 11 years old when he was sentenced to eight years in a Young Offenders Institute for killing James Bulger.

Following his release from prison, Venables was given a new identity and received extensive rehabilitation.

He was later given another new identity after he told friends he was a convicted murderer, which compromised his identity.

In recent years, Venables has since committed other crimes.

In 2008, seven years after his release from prison, Venables was arrested following a drunken fight. As a result, he was given a formal warning by his probation service and given a caution for having cocaine in his possession.


Just two years later, Venables was jailed for two years after he admitted to downloading and distributing child pornography.

He was released in 2013 until he was arrested once again in 2017 for possessing child abuse images.

In February 2018, Venables was sentenced to 40 months behind bars.

Jon Venables. Image: Getty.

Now, as Venables' sentence draws to a close, British publication Daily Star have claimed that Venables is "being kept in a private wing in prison" and is "days away form being released".

"The security around Venables is tight, and the thinking is he will be shipped out, probably early, from the prison when no one is expecting it, and sent abroad," a source claimed.

It's believed Venables could be sent to Canada, however Australia and New Zealand are also said to be options.

"Venables is costing a fortune," the source said.

"The thinking is that it would be cheaper to get rid of him abroad, than keep forking out."

Although Venables was granted lifetime anonymity worldwide in 1993, Bulger's father launched High Court proceedings in February 2018 to try and remove his anonymity as he had re-offended multiple times.

"Venables is up for parole any time now, and if it is granted he will be released into the community under a fake name and secret new identity," Bulger said.

"He is a dangerous, predatory child abuser and killer, and I am terrified he will strike again and harm another child like my James."

In the end, Bulger lost his legal challenge and Venables was able to retain his anonymity.

child's play
A surveillance camera shows the abduction of two-year-old James Bulger. Image: Getty.

What happened to Robert Thompson?

Robert Thompson was also 11 years old when he was sentenced to eight years for killing James Bulger.

Although Thompson had no history of violence prior to the murder, police believe that Thompson was the ringleader of the attack.

Detective Phil Roberts received the call in 1993, notifying him that two-year-old Bulger was missing.

"As far as I’m concerned that day – 20 years ago – I stared evil in the face," he said.

"I think Thompson was in charge, but they both attacked James," he added.

"They were a match made in hell. A freak of nature. They went out that day to kill – I truly believe that. And if they hadn’t been caught I fear they would have struck again.

"Pure evil, I will never change my mind about that."

Thompson spent most of his teenage years in prison, released when he was 18 years old. In 2010, a social worker who looked after the boy described his behaviour in prison to the Daily Mail.

Robert Thompson. Image: Getty.

The social worker said he, nor anyone else in the youth detention facility, never saw Thompson cry or show remorse for his actions. Initially, he displayed the complete opposite in fact.

"During his trial, he was obsessed with watching the reports of the case, seeing the van on TV driving him to court. He devoured it all, oblivious to what was going on around him," the social worker said.

"At first, he would ask us when the news was on but he very quickly learned the times of all the bulletins, so in the end we would just leave him with the remote control.

"He always sat there sucking his thumb, a habit he didn’t lose – despite our best efforts – until he was 14."

In 2018 program James Bulger: The New Revelations, Thompson shared his own view of the crime and its aftermath via his parole testimony in 2001.

The then-18-year-old said that while he regretted killing James, he couldn’t deny the positive impact it had on his own life and considered himself a “better person” because of it.

“I do feel aware I am now a better person and have had a better life and a better education than if I had not committed the murder,” he told the board, as heard in the documentary.

“There is obviously an irony to this but it is part of my remorseful feelings as well.”

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He claimed that at the time of the murder he was “out of control” and spending time with people who were “committing crimes”.

“I was out of control because my life on the streets was better for me than my life at home – there was nothing for me at home.”

Although Venables broke his parole numerous times, Thompson has lived the last 26 years incident-free and out of jail.

Because of this, there’s not a lot known about Thompson’s post-prison life.

In 2006 it was reported that he was in a long-term relationship with a man who knew who he really was, although these reports were not confirmed.

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