BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Norman Brennan, Victims of Crime Trust
"I do not support vigilantes"
 real 28k

Monday, 2 July, 2001, 03:06 GMT 04:06 UK
Bulger killer's family 'forced to hide'
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
An open-ended injunction protects Venables' and Thompson's identities
The family of one of the James Bulger killers has been forced into hiding after an alleged revenge attack, BBC1's Panorama programme has revealed.

Robert Thompson's family are in hiding for the ninth time in eight years after the attack four days ago, his mother Ann said.

A letter issued via her solicitor disclosed how she was attacked and threatened this week, prompting fears for her younger children's safety.

Two appalling wrongs do not make a right

Ann Thompson
Panorama has also learned that Jon Venables' family have suffered similarly in the past.

Mrs Thompson said she was living "effectively in hiding, unable to live anything like a normal life because of the constant and real fear of revenge attacks", according to the letter.

It said she acknowledged her son had committed "a terrible crime" but her innocent younger children were being denied a proper education because of having to abandon their homes and belongings to escape attacks.

Mrs Thompson's letter also pleaded for an end to threats to find and kill her son, adding: "Two appalling wrongs do not make a right".

James Bulger
James Bulger: Killed in February 1993
That letter emerged days after the mother of murdered toddler James Bulger said she did not want vigilantes to take the lives of his killers.

Denise Fergus said she was scared about an innocent person being mistaken for Thompson and Venables.

But she added: "I mean I'm not going to hunt them down, try and kill them, but if it happens then I can't stop it."

Home Secretary David Blunkett announced last month that Thompson and Venables were to be freed after serving eight years for the 1993 killing.

He conceded that they could face real dangers, and a series of death threats against them have since been posted on an Internet site.

Strict High Court guidelines restricting media coverage of the duo, now aged 18, have been imposed to protect them from revenge attacks.

The teenagers abducted two-year-old James from the Strand shopping precinct in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993 before torturing him and battering him to death on a railway line.

They have been granted an open-ended injunction protecting their anonymity.

Phil Roberts
Phil Roberts: Lives "on a knifepoint"
The BBC1 Panorama programme also interviewed Phil Roberts, the detective who interviewed Thompson after his arrest.

Mr Roberts said it was right that the freed killers should live "life on a knifepoint".

Michael Howard, also interviewed on the programme, said he still believed the 15-year tariff he imposed as home secretary was correct.

Tom Loflin, the US lawyer who helped take the boys' cause to the European Court of Human Rights, spoke for the first time to Panorama about why he did it and about his friendship with Venables.

He said of him: "He has a wonderful sense of humour, a really great sense of humour. He is a lot of fun to be with when you're with him."

An enlightened society follows the rules of law

Tom Loflin
US lawyer
Contradicting press reports, Mr Loflin said Venables was "ecstatic" about the Parole Board's decision to free him, although apprehensive about imminent changes to his life.

He said he believed it was time a civilised society allowed the two boys, who he said had been rehabilitated, to make something of their lives and not be hunted down.

He warned against the dangers of what he called "mob rule", saying that such behaviour was "not the way a civilised society, an enlightened society, behaves".

He added: "An enlightened society follows the rules of law."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories