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Tuesday 21 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Dave Thompson/PA Archive/Press Association Images
# Remembering
James Bulger's Dad talks about the pain that will not heal
On the 20th anniversary of his son’s death, Ralph Bulger reveals he drank heavily for years to try and dull the pain.

THE FAMILY OF murdered toddler James Bulger believe their loss was compounded by a sense of injustice that his killers were freed after eight years.

“For them to be like that at such a young age, imagine what they could do now?” Ralph Bulger says in a BBC Radio 4 documentary. “What’s to stop them if they’re not getting watched all the time?”

Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were convicted for the kidnapping and murder of the two-year-old in the Liverpool area in February 1993. They were tried as adults in a criminal court and the judge found them guilty of an act of “unparalleled evil and barbarity”.

Although there were moves to lengthen their sentences, both men were released from prison in June 2001. They were 18 years old and granted protected anonymity. On 2 March 2010, the British Government confirmed that Venebles had reoffended and was back in prison for breaking the terms of his licence. He pleaded guilty to charges relating to child pornography. He was 27 when he returned to jail.

“Denise [James's mother] says that they were not punished…but rewarded,” continues Ralph. “I know exactly what happened to James, the public don’t know everything. They should know what they are capable of.”

James’s body was found by a group of young boys playing at a railway track more than 24 hours after being lured away from New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle.

The trial later heard how James received 42 injuries before his death, including ten skull fractures. Blue paint had been thrown in his eye, bricks and stones flung at him and batteries inserted into his mouth. A 22lb iron bar was also used during the assault.

When investigating police combed through CCTV footage, they realised they were looking for a pair of youths in connection with James’s disappearance.

“I thought it was going to be alright, it was just kids,” Ralph told interviewer Winifred Robinson. “You don’t expect it. It felt like I was in a dream. I couldn’t believe they done it. They didn’t just kill James, they tortured him. They mutilated him.”

In the aftermath of his son’s death, Ralph began to drink heavily and eventually split from his wife Denise.

“I was non-stop drinking, binge drinking. I was just killing myself. I couldn’t really live with it. I was drinking a bottle of whiskey and couldn’t get drunk. So I’d go on two bottles a day. I wouldn’t eat, I’d fall asleep, go back on the drink and try to kill the pain. It didn’t work.”

He said that pattern carried on for “years and years”.

“It ripped us apart. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Still don’t really. You just try your best. We had the best thing taken away from us though, didn’t we?”

Asked about whether the family attended counselling services, the Liverpudlian said he was part of a big family that talked to each other.

“It is not a pain you can heal. It’s been with me for life. It is always there.”

READ: The 20th anniversary of the most shocking of crimes

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