TWO-year-old James Bulger was tortured and killed by schoolboys in a crime that rocked Britain.
The toddler was snatched from the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside, on February 12, 1993 by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.
What happened to James Bulger?
Little James was led away by the depraved duo while his mother was in a butcher’s shop at the busy shopping centre.
A picture taken from CCTV footage shows the tot being taken by the hand in what would become one of the defining images of the shocking case.
The killers walked James for two and half miles and were spotted by 38 people – some of whom challenged the pair.
Venables and Thompson told passers-by that the distressed toddler was their younger brother or that he was lost and they were taking him to a local police station.
The pair took James to a railway line and tortured, beat and sexually assaulted him.
They poured modelling paint into his eyes, stoned him and clubbed him with bricks, before leaving him on the railway line to be hit by a train.
After killing the tot they left his body near the tracks where it was discovered two days later.
What happened during the investigation and trial?
After police saw the CCTV footage they assumed the killers would be aged between 12 and 18.
Phil Roberts, who was on Merseyside’s serious crime squad at the time, described the moment he saw the chilling images which shocked the nation
He said: “It showed James hand in hand with what we thought was a teenager. There was another boy in front — we thought he was about 13.
“That was a surprise, that two youths had apparently taken him.
“We immediately started combing records of anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 who might be involved.
“We brought in several boys but as soon as I started questioning them I knew they weren’t involved.”
After James’ body was found at the railway line, it soon emerged that the toddler was covered in blue paint – a detail which eventually led cops to Venables and Thompson.
Phil, who retired from the force in 1999, said: “One officer spotted a report from a woman who knew Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.
“By then it had been made public that James’s body had been splattered with blue paint. The woman had noticed blue paint on one of the boy’s clothes.
“She named the duo adding, ‘They are naughty boys’.”
The identity of the killers was concealed from the public during their arrest and trial.
But because of the public outrage, the two 10-year-olds were tried in an adult court where they were convicted of murder.
Judge Justice Morland the named the murderers and sentenced them to a secure youth accommodation facility with a recommendation that they serve at least eight years in prison.
What has happened since the killers were released?
In June 2001, both the killers were released and given new secret identities.
However, in 2010 Venables was jailed for two years after admitting downloading and distributing indecent images of children.
It later emerged that Venables is back in jail after allegedly being caught with more vile child abuse images.
The sick killer, who also pleaded guilty to having more than 1,000 indecent images of children, has been caged for 40 months.
The Old Bailey heard he told cops after his arrest: “This is my own fault. I have let people down again. I have had urges.”
The monster is understood to have been living in a secret location in the North of England under a SECOND new identity given to him following his release from prison in 2013.
In July 2013, James’ anguished dad Ralph Bulger warned: “Jon Venables is and always was a predatory sex killer who will never be changed.
“He will always be a danger to children which is why he must be locked up for life.”
What did his mum Denise Fergus say?
After Venables was jailed, mum Denise Fergus, who split from Ralph after the tragedy, said: “There are experts who say Jon Venables is a psychopath and I believe that is true.
“I fear they will find that with him they have another Ian Brady on their hands.”
In January 2018 she told the Mail on Sunday: “There aren’t the words to describe how I still feel now, every day.
“I was the one who let go of his hand; I was the one there meant to protect him.
“But do you know what my biggest regret is? That I didn’t turn right instead of left – if I had taken the right turn and gone around the corner, I would have seen James being led away, just four short minutes after he had left my side, trustingly holding hands with the boys who were about to murder him.”
In her new book I Let Him Go published in The Mirror, Denise, 50, recalls hearing how Thompson laid flowers by the train tracks in Walton where little James’ body was found.
She writes: “Thompson lived in Walton, not far from the murder scene, with his mum and two younger brothers. The arresting officer ended up speaking to Thompson’s seven-year-old brother.
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“He said: ‘He knew about the murder, so much so that he and Thompson had been down to put flowers by the tracks.
“‘I remember hearing that and wondering if we were making a terrible mistake.
“I mean, what adult could be that conniving if they had murdered someone, let alone a child behaving so cynically?’”
Denise is calling for a public enquiry to discover what officials knew about the sexual abuse that her son suffered before his death.
She said: “I want to know on what basis the parole board considered they were rehabilitated and whether they were aware of the sexual abuse James suffered.”
Her solicitor Sean Sexton has listed 14 questions which he claims remain unanswered.
One includes why experts missed Venables’ interest in child abuse until his conviction for extreme child porn in 2010.