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2001: Bulger killers to be released
The killers of toddler James Bulger will be released, eight years after they were jailed for a crime which shocked the nation.

Home Secretary David Blunkett confirmed to the House of Commons that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson would be allowed to go free on a "life licence".

Both the boys were 10-years-old when they led James Bulger away from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, tortured and murdered him.

The toddler's mother, Denise Fergus - who has remarried after separating from the child's father, Ralph - reacted angrily to the decision and said the killers could never escape vengeance.

The Parole Board ruled the 18-year-olds were no longer a danger and should be freed as soon as possible.

But the terms of their licence means they will be supervised for the rest of their lives and could be rearrested at any time if thought to be a risk to the public.

Venables and Thompson are also forbidden from contacting each other or any members of the Bulger family, and are not allowed to enter Merseyside without permission.

Public funds will be used for their further education and to protect their identities, but National Probation Service Director Eithne Wallis told the BBC the pair would "never be completely free".

In a statement read out by a friend, Mrs Fergus said the government and the Parole Board had been deceived by two devious killers.

"The murderers have walked away with a life of luxury, a bought home, a bank account and 24-hour protection," she said.

But Venables' lawyer, John Dickinson, said his client had expressed remorse and was ready to be released.

"I think he would give a great deal to put the clock back, but unfortunately of course, he can't," he said.

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James Bulger
James Bulger was abudcted from the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside

In Context
Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss had ruled in January 2001 the identities of Venables and Thompson should remain secret as there was a "real possibility of serious physical harm and possibly death" to them.

There were threats by protesters to publish a recent photo of one of the teenagers on the internet, which could have been out of the jurisdiction of UK law.

The Manchester Evening News was found guilty of contempt of court over an article about the young men's whereabouts published just hours after the parole board ruled they could be released.

The court order prohibiting publication of any information likely to lead to their identification will probably remain in place indefinitely.

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