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Friday, March 6, 1998 Published at 01:22 GMT


James Bulger: a murder that shocked Britain
image: [ Two-year-old James Bulger was killed by schoolboys ]
Two-year-old James Bulger was killed by schoolboys

"We must condemn a little more, and understand a little less."

So said John Major shortly after the murder of James Bulger in 1993. He was speaking as prime minister, but his sentiments were also those of the man in the street.

The killing of James, aged two, by two 10-year-old schoolboys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, was one of Britain's most shocking and memorable crimes of modern times. It ranks alongside the Moors murders in the 1960s and the West killings that were exposed in the 1990s.

[ image: Police at the site where James was found dead]
Police at the site where James was found dead
It also raised the profile of child crime to unprecedented levels and since then the issue has never gone off the political agenda.

Questions and theories abounded. How could two cheeky young lads who were playing truant from school, commit such a crime?

Had they been influenced by watching horror movies on video? Were they the product of growing up in a poor and troubled environment?

[ image: Robert Thompson]
Robert Thompson
Or were they, as some of the tabloid press would have it, evil, scheming boys who

ought to be locked up for life.

James, who was a month from his third birthday, had been out shopping with his mother in Bootle, Merseyside, when he was abducted on a whim by the two schoolboys.

[ image: Jon Venables]
Jon Venables

[ image: Robert Thompson]
Robert Thompson
He was kicked and punched as his tormentors led him more than two miles to a railway bank where they beat him to death with bricks and an iron bar.

The moment of James's abduction had been caught on closed-circuit television operating in the shopping centre where he had been with his mother, Denise.

Played repeatedly on television, it became ingrained in the public consciousness, heightening the reality of the crime to all who watched.

The memory has never faded for parents, many of whom now keep their children much closer while out on a shopping trip.

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