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Robert Thompson and Jon Venables
Remorse of Bulger killer

Eight years on, the two boys whose murder of James Bulger horrified the nation are being released. The lawyer of one of the boys, Jon Venables, tells Panorama why he should be allowed to return to society.

Venables admitted his part in the murder early on. He developed a deeper understanding of what he did during the time he spent in a children's secure unit. His lawyer, Tom Loflin, says, "he has certainly shown remorse."

Loflin is a human rights lawyer from North Carolina who became involved in the case after reading about the trial at home in 1993.

Tom Loflin
Tom Loflin was outraged by the trial of Venables and Thomspon
He was outraged that the UK was putting eleven year-olds on trial in an adult court.

The Vietnam veteran was the driving force behind the move to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ultimately it created the conditions whereby Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were released after eight years rather than the 15 set by the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard.

Close relationship

Loflin has forged a close relationship with Venables. He says he has "watched him blossom, mature and develop" over the years.

Each time I visited him (Venables) I could see he had made progress

Tom Loflin
Loflin showed Panorama reporter Jane Corbin Christmas cards that he received from Venables. One thanks him for a Durham Bulls t-shirt, Loflin's favourite baseball team, and a video of the movie Bull Durham.

When he was 13, Venables laboured over a comical ceramic head of a bull, the team mascot, and presented it to Loflin. That was followed by a bust of the basketball player Dennis Rodman, a gift for Loflin's wfe and law partner, Ann.

Loflin says, "Jon has a lot of creative artistic talent. He is a lot of fun to be with. Each time I visited him I could see he had made progress."

Newspaper reports claim that Venables and Thompson are terrified of freedom because of the vigilante violence that they could face.

Tom Loflin tells a different story. He says that Venables is "ecstatic over the decision of the Parole Board."

Referring to a report in The News of the World that Venable's mother fears for his life, he says "Everything in that story is complete fabrication."


These boys have clearly been reformed and rehabilitated

Tom Loflin
There can be no doubt, however, that the threat to these two young men is real. Revenge is the talk of the pubs in Liverpool.

James Bulger's mother Denise is rallying opponents to their release. Many of her supporters are slow to condemn would-be vigilantes.

But Tom Loflin says, "These boys have clearly been reformed and rehabilitated. They should now be allowed to make something of their lives. If they are allowed by society to make something of their lives they will give back to society immeasurably."

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