James Bulger’s mother in ‘state of shock’ over killer’s parole hearing

Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered toddler James Bulger (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered toddler James Bulger (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The mother of James Bulger, a two-year-old murdered in 1993, said she is in “a state of shock” over her son’s killer being granted a parole hearing.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both aged 10 when they tortured and killed James Bulger after they abducted him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside.

The boys were jailed for life but released on licence with new identities in 2001. Venables has since been jailed twice more for obtaining child abuse images, most recently for 40 months in 2017.

On Wednesday it emerged Venables had been granted a two-day parole hearing on November 14 and 15. A decision on whether prisoners can be released is usually made within 14 days.

James’ mother Denise Fergus said she is “deeply concerned” about Venables’ potential release, and said he is “one of the biggest dangers to our country”.

According to the BBC, a statement released on her behalf by the James Bulger Memorial Trust said: “Denise remains deeply concerned about the potential release of Jon Venables, whom she considers to be one of the biggest dangers to our country.

“She firmly believes that if he is released he will undoubtedly offend again. The thought of him being allowed back into our communities is undeniably alarming.”

The trust said she would like to “express her heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has shown their support for her and her family during this difficult time”.

Jon Venables (left) and James Bulger (ES Composite)
Jon Venables (left) and James Bulger (ES Composite)

Venables was sent back to prison in 2010 and 2017 for possessing indecent images of children, and was given a 40-month sentence.

In 2020, the Parole Board was asked to review his case when he became eligible, but the panel decided he should not be released.

A Parole Board spokesman said: “An oral hearing has been listed for the parole review of Jon Venables and is scheduled to take place in November 2023.

“Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.

“A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.

“Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead-up to an oral hearing.

“Evidence from witnesses including probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison, as well as victim personal statements, are then given at the hearing.

“The prisoner and witnesses are then questioned at length during the hearing, which often lasts a full day or more.

“Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.”