Marie Claire Australia - 01.05.2018

(Ben Green) #1 57



n February 12, 1993, Denise
Fergus, nee Bulger, made
a decision that has haunted
her for more than 25 years

  • heading to her local
    shopping centre, she left her nearly
    three-year-old son James’ pram at home.
    Later that afternoon at the butcher’s
    counter, the young mum was forced to let
    go of her toddler’s hand to pay for the
    lamb chops the family planned to eat for
    dinner. And that was the last time she
    would ever see her son, who she likes to
    remember as “real and fizzing with life”
    instead of as a little boy whose name is
    forever entwined with those of the 10-year-
    olds who abducted and murdered him:
    Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.
    In a UK trial that made international
    headlines, the two boys were found guilty
    of torturing and tormenting Jamie over
    a 4km walk before arriving at a railway line
    where he succumbed to his multiple inju-
    ries. They then arranged Jamie’s body on
    the tracks, hoping a hit from a train would

cover up their role in his death. Pathologist
Dr Alan Williams later said the toddler’s
injuries were so numerous – 42 in total – it
was impossible to discern the fatal blow.
Venables and Thompson served just
eight years behind bars for the crime.
Upon their release they were granted new
identities, meaning they could then start
new lives without the public knowing who

  • or where – they were. It was a sentence
    that enraged both the Bulger family and
    the wider community and forced Denise
    into a lifelong battle with Britain’s judicial
    system over many issues, including the
    toughening of sentencing of minors.
    “It dawned on me that Thompson and
    Venables would mess up this chance at
    freedom; that this wasn’t the end of the
    fight because they would do something
    wrong and the process would start all over
    again,” Denise writes in her memoir, I Let
    Him Go. She was proven right, as Venables
    has twice reofended and is now back in jail.
    In an exclusive extract from her book,
    for the first time Denise reveals the toll

James’ death has taken on her family – and
why she wants her little boy remembered
for the cheeky, happy child he was, not for
the grisly way he died.

When I gave birth to my baby boy, I was
full of hopes and dreams for him. But
the one thing I didn’t ever imagine was
burying my son’s tiny body after his
murder. People often ask me if I blame
myself for what happened that day – for
taking my eyes of him for that split sec-
ond. For letting go of his hand as I
looked for my purse. They ask if I blame
myself for not seeing what the CCTV
footage later showed: Venables and
Thompson beckoning James away from
my side and out of the shop at 3.39pm.
The answer is: of course I do.
There aren’t the words to describe how I
still feel now, every day. I was the one
who let go of his hand; I was the
one who was supposed to protect him.

It’s been 25 years since Denise Fergus lost sight of her two-year-
old son, James Bulger, in a crowded shopping centre. It took
mere seconds for two 10-year-old boys to lure him away to a
brutal death. This is how Denise has endured a lifetime of grief

I still



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