The three brothers of murdered toddler James Bulger have spoken publicly for the first time about how their sibling’s death impacted how they grew up and how he is still part of their family 28 years later.
Speaking in a new documentary, Michael Fergus, 27, and half-brothers Thomas, 22 and Leon, 21, who were all born after James was murdered in February 1993, opened up about the pain their mother suffered and how she was extra protective of them growing up over fear they would be taken.
Lost Boy: The Killing of James Bulger, which airs tonight on Channel 5, tells the definitive story of the murder that shocked the nation, examining in forensic detail what happened on that day in Liverpool when two-year-old James’ body was found mutilated on a railway track.
New clips released today show the brothers speaking on camera for the first time, where Micheal reveals they still keep an empty chair for James at the Christmas dinner table – and share how their mother Denise was incredibly protective of them growing up.
The three brothers of murdered toddler James Bulger have spoken publicly for the first time about the impact of his death growing up and how he is still part of their family 28 years later. Speaking in a new documentary, Michael Fergus, 27, (pictured) said he still ‘talks about James a lot’
‘Being James’ brother, it’s not a weird thing,’ Michael Fergus, who was born nine months after James’ death tells documentary makers.
‘We’ve always grown up knowing he was there, who he was, what he was like, his character’.
‘In the household, we talk about James a lot.
‘My mum will give us little stories and insights about what he was like. He has always been a character we wanted to know more about, wishing he was there, rather than someone who was in the background all the time.’
‘He’s never not been part of the family. We have a spare chair around the Christmas table.
‘It’s always been empty. Me mum likes to see James as—not sitting there but being in there in presence with us, obviously while we’re having Christmas dinner.
‘He’s always been a character that we’ve wanted to know more about, wishing – wishing he was here rather than just being someone that was in the background all the time.’
Denise met electrician Stuart Fergus when Michael was two and the couple married and had two sons, Thomas (left), 22, and Leon, 21 (right). While they were growing up, Leon said his mother would always walk behind them in shops so she could see where they were at all times.
James Bulger (pictured) was snatched by 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables from the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside on February 12, 1993, while his mother was at the till.
‘You do think about him. What them two did to James was – it’s unimaginable.’
Michael also told how he wasn’t allowed to go on school trips or to the shops with his friends as a youngster.
‘The only place I was allowed was either in the front garden or literally outside the gate with my mates, but I would have to be in view of the window, so if I went out of sight, Mum would be straight out,’ he recalled.
Now a father himself after girlfriend Leanne gave birth to their daughter Peyton Kirsty late last year, he added: ‘Becoming a dad, seeing it from my mum’s eyes, it’s going to make me more protective and hold the baby closer than I think anyone could.’
Proud Denise announced Michael’s daughter Peyton’s arrival on Twitter and Facebook, sharing a photo of her cuddling her ‘beautiful granddaughter’
The little girl’s middle name is a nod to his older sister Kirsty, Denise’s first child, who was stillborn in 1989.
Proud Denise announced Peyton’s arrival on Twitter and Facebook, sharing a photo of her cuddling her ‘beautiful granddaughter’.
Denise split from husband Ralph Bulger after Michael was born in December 1993 – 10 months after James’ disappearance.
The brothers of murdered toddler James Bulger have spoken for the first time about the impact of his death on their family as part of a new documentary. Pictured from left to right: Thomas Fergus, Michael Fergus, Denise Fergus, Leon Fergus and Stuart Fergus
Despite the united front the couple put on in public in the wake of their son’s murder, Ralph admitted in his book ‘My James’ that he privately, ‘unfairly’ blamed Denise – acknowledging that he was ‘very wrong’ to do so.
Denise met electrician Stuart Fergus when Michael was two and the couple married and had two sons, Thomas, 22, and Leon, 21.
Michael, who changed his surname to his stepfather’s when he was 13 so it matched his brothers’, previously said he has never felt ‘second best’ to James, telling the Daily Mail in 2013 when he was 19: ‘Mum never made me feel like that. She has never preferred one child over another. We all feel equal.’
He also revealed he had never travelled alone on a bus or train or left Liverpool without a member of his family before reaching adulthood, and admitted he would feel guilty if he came home later than he said he would.
While they were growing up, Leon said his mother would always walk behind them in shops so she could see where they were at all times.
Thompson and Venables (pictured) were 11 when they faced a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, and were the youngest murder defendants in the UK in over 100 years
Leon and Thomas also explain how protective their mother was around them following the trauma of losing her first born.
‘Growing up like, if we were like walking round a shop and that, she’d (Denise) always make sure she was at the back so she can walk us forward in front of her. She wanted to know where we were at all times,’ Leon explained.
‘Still now I can’t really fathom exactly what happened – I don’t really want to know all the details about it.’
‘It’s horrible to say but she doesn’t want that to happen again. She doesn’t want us to go out anywhere, ’cause obviously that will always be in the back of her head, every day’ he added.
‘And obviously, it’s scary to think that it could—it could have happened again. You’re gonna be over-protective aren’t you when something like that happens in your life, I think,’ Thomas added. ‘What happened, it is sickening isn’t it? To me own brother.’
The three brothers say their mother was very protective growing up. From left to right: Leon, Michael and Thomas
Meanwhile Denise revealed she wouldn’t be alive today had she not fallen pregnant with Michael in those desperate weeks after James’s murder. Her son became her sole reason for living.
‘James was taken in the February and Michael was born that December. I’d just lost a baby and I found myself holding another,’ she said.
‘Michael got me through the darkest days of my life when I didn’t want to live. He gave me the strength to carry on. He wasn’t a replacement baby, because I could never replace James.
‘Michael may have looked like James when he was born, but he was his own person with his own character. Caring for him gave me a big lift. He needed me and I had to be there for him.’
Denise, pictured, said she would ‘never let go’ after James’ murder, and said ‘it is my son that he took,’ speaking of Jon Venables, who is currently in prison relating to child pornography charges
James Bulger was snatched by 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables from the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside on February 12, 1993, while his mother was at the till.
James’s mutilated body was found on railway tracks in Walton, Merseyside, two days later on Valentine’s Day. He’d been tortured and beaten with bricks and iron bars and had paint thrown at him, and died from head injuries.
Thompson and Venables were 11 when they faced a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, and were the youngest murder defendants in the UK in over 100 years.
They were sentenced to eight years and served seven years eight months, meaning they wouldn’t serve time in an adult prison. They were given new identities at the taxpayers’ expense on their release in 2001, and while Venables has been recalled to prison several times, Thompson has not been heard of since.
Phil Roberts, pictured, was the detective sergeant who interviewed Robert Thompson in relation to the murder of James Bulger on February 12 1993 in Walton, near Liverpool. He talked of Thompson and the case in Channel 5’s Lost Boy: The Killing of James Bulger, airing Wednesday and Thursday on Channel 5
One of the investigators who questioned the killers of also spoke about how they tried to outwit him.
Phil Roberts was the detective sergeant who arrested and questioned Robert Thompson.
Roberts said he found Thompson to be ‘street smart’ and ‘clever,’ and said the ten-year-old was ‘trying very, very hard to con me.’
Thompson tried to manipulate the investigators, who said he was ‘calculating’ and would pretend to cry ‘without a tear’ (James as a toddle, before his murder)
‘He was quite confident in him self, was street-wise, he thought he was quite clever,’ Roberts recounted. ‘But he wasnt really showing any anxiety…all he was waiting for was to go home.
‘I don’t think he recognised the fact that what he’d done was that bad,’ he added.
‘I don’t know how he was doing at school, but he was switched on and he was trying to con me, trying very hard,’ he added.
Fellow detective Laurie Dalton said Thompson was ‘calculating’ and trying to manipulate the investigators and ‘would cry whenever there would be an awkward situation,’ to deflect blame.
‘When I say “cried,” there was not a drop of water, there was not a tear.’
James Bulger: How the murder of a toddler shocked the nation
The murder of James Bulger was a vicious crime that shocked Britain.
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both 10 years old on February 12, 1993, when they abducted the two-year-old before brutally torturing and killing him.
The crime made the boys the youngest killers in modern English history.
The duo snatched James from outside a butcher’s shop in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, while his mother popped into a store for just a few seconds.
Two-year-old James Bulger, pictured, was tortured and left for dead in February 1993
He was abducted by 10 year olds Jon Venables, left, and Robert Thompson
James’ mutilated body was found on a railway line in Walton, Liverpool, two days later.
The boys were playing truant from school, and CCTV showed them observing local children at the shopping centre, appearing to be ‘selecting a target’.
They were then captured on camera taking the boy away at 3.42pm, before leading him on a two-and-a-half mile walk through Liverpool to the village of Walton.
Venables and Thompson were seen by 38 people during the walk, and were twice challenged by bystanders because James was crying and had a bump on his forehead.
CCTV footage, pictured, captured the moment Venables and Thompson took James from the shopping centre in Bootle
But they were able to convince the concerned people that James was their little brother and continued on their way.
They led James to a railway line near the disused Walton & Anfield Railway Station where they began torturing him – including throwing paint in his eye, pelting him with stones and bricks and dropping an iron bar on his head.
After the body was found, police launched an appeal showing the low-resolution CCTV images of the boy.
The breakthrough came when one woman recognised Venables, who she knew had skipped school with Thompson on that day, and contacted police.
They were charged with murder on February 20 and forensic tests confirmed they had the same paint on their clothes as was found on James’ body.
The death of James shocked the nation and floral tributes were left in their droves at his funeral, pictured
Around 500 protesters turned out for their initial magistrates’ court hearing due to the public outcry against the crime.
The subsequent trial at Preston Crown Court and the boys were considered to be ‘mature enough’ to know they were doing something ‘seriously wrong’.
Venables and Thompson were found guilty on November 24, 1993, with the judge describing them as ‘cunning and wicked’.
Reporting restrictions on their names were also lifted as it was considered in the public interest to do so.
Their parents were moved to different parts of the country and also received new identities due to death threats against them.