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Saturday, 23 June, 2001, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Cost of hiding the killers
CCTV footage of James Bulger's abduction
The murder investigation cost about 500,000
The total cost to the taxpayer of dealing with the murderers of James Bulger could be up to 5m, according to reports.

Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, both now 18, are receiving secret new identities on their release - granted, on life licences, by the Parole Board on Friday.

New identities are usually reserved for spies and gangland informers or "supergrasses" who have passed information to police or testified in a major trial.

James Bulger
James was beaten to death and left by a railway line
It has been speculated that creating and preserving the killers' new identities from any vigilante threat and the prying eyes of the international media could cost about 1.5m.

A strict injunction prevents the media in England and Wales carrying anything that could lead to the identification or location of the pair, who murdered James when they were aged 10.

Judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss made the ruling in January because of the killers' "almost unique circumstances" which put them at serious risk of attack.

But any prosecution of the Manchester Evening News for its alleged "breach" of this order will also be expensive.

Keeping the murderers in separate local authority secure units for the past eight years at an estimated 5,000-a-week has already cost 2m.

And the police hunt following the murder of James Bulger is estimated to have cost 500,000.

This was followed by the boys' trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, which is thought to have added another 1m.

Days out

The price of keeping them in secure units, once described as "five star holiday camps" by their victim's father, was reportedly increased by the cost of giving them televisions, videos and CD players.

There were also supervised days out designed to get Venables and Thompson used to being in public again.

These reportedly included trips to the theatre, seaside and shopping centres.

On one occasion, Venables was said to have been taken to see his favourite team, Manchester United, play at Old Trafford.

New papers

Their new identities will not come cheap.

It had been suggested they will have new medical and employment records, passports, National Insurance numbers and even birth certificates.

They are also expected to have bank accounts and credit cards under their new names.

Thompson and Venables will be monitored by probation officers for the rest of their lives, adding to the vast cost of the operation.

There have also been reports that they will have special phone links to local police stations in case of vigilante attack.

If their cover is blown they will have to be moved, which would increase costs even further.

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