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Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Internet threat for Bulger killer
John Venables (left) and Robert Thompson
Venables (left) and Thompson could be freed this summer
Reports that a recent photograph of one of James Bulger's killers is to be published on the internet have been condemned by his solicitor as "highly irresponsible".

The picture is thought to originate from a town centre CCTV camera, which filmed Robert Thompson while he was on a supervised outing last summer.

A High Court injunction bans the publication of anything that could help identify Thompson and his co-defendant Jon Venables when they are freed from detention with new identities.

But The Mail on Sunday claims protesters, who oppose their release, plan to circulate the image via the worldwide web.

The photograph was seen by a reporter from Channel 4's Despatches programme, which is broadcasting a documentary about the death of the Liverpool two-year-old and his killers next week.

Summer release

The film precedes an anticipated parole hearing on 18 June, which could result in the teenagers being released within months.

Thompson's solicitor, Dominic Lloyd, is now investigating the existence of the picture.

He said: "I am not aware of the existence of any photograph, but it would be highly irresponsible for anyone to consider publishing it.

"Clearly I will take the reports seriously and pursue them."

James Bulger
James Bulger was lured to his death
A Channel 4 spokesman confirmed the photograph had "been shown to a reporter" during the making of the Despatches programme but said it would not be broadcast on the documentary in keeping with the injunction.

Thompson and Venables, now both 18, were detained indefinitely for the Liverpool toddler's murder following a trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993.

The 10-year-old truants abducted the little boy from the Strand shopping centre, in Bootle, and lured him to a railway line before leaving his battered body on the track.

Mother's despair

James' mother, Denise Fergus, who has remarried after separating from the child's father Ralph, was angered by the cloak of anonymity granted to her son's killers.

She said the public had the right to know if they were living next door to a murderer.

Mrs Fergus, 33, was already upset by a senior judge's decision last October which effectively ended the boys' tariff - the minimum period they must spend in custody - paving the way for an early release.

She set up a protest group Justice for James in her home town of Kirkby, on Merseyside, to campaign against the early release of Thompson and Venables.

A friend of Mrs Fergus told The Mail on Sunday she was aware of the existence of the photograph.

"She does not condone any plans to publish the image but she does understand the feelings and motives of anyone who might feel driven to flout the law.

"She would not condemn them for acting out of frustration," the friend added.

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