Child killer Robert Thompson’s mother, Ann, allegedly developed an obsession with his victim’s mum, Denise Fergus, after he was locked up for James Bulger’s murder
Robert Thompson’s mother would allegedly watch videos of James Bulger’s mum on repeat after the tot’s murder.
In 1993, two-year-old James was abducted and tortured by Thompson and Jon Venables, who were both aged 10, in a shocking murder case that disturbed the nation. The pair kidnapped the toddler from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, and led him to a railway line where they killed him in cold blood.
The schoolboys served eight years in a young offenders institute before being freed in 2001 with new identities, under the protection of a worldwide injunction. Thompson is not known to have reoffended since. Venables was recalled to prison in 2010 and 2017 for possessing child sex abuse images. He was turned down for parole in 2020.
Yesterday, it was announced that Venables will serve at least two more years in jail after missing his appeal deadline. The 41-year-old may die behind bars, as under proposed parole reform bill changes, the Justice Secretary would be given the final say on whether a dangerous, sexual reoffender would be released.
James’ mum Denise Fergus, 54, who is campaigning for an inquiry into the death of her son in 1993, shared her delight. She told the Mirror: “It is huge for us and for other families who could go through what we did if this person was released.” Denise added: “Two years now gives this Government a chance to put their money where their mouth is and get this bill through.”
When Thompson was first arrested on suspicion of James’ brutal murder, his mother, Ann Thompson, refused to believe he’d had anything to do with it. “They are all saying he told lies from beginning to end. Yes, he did tell some lies, but he also told the truth about one thing from beginning to end – he did not kill that baby. I honestly do believe him,” she told the Telegraph before his trial in 1993.
Following her son’s conviction, Ann said she was ‘effectively in hiding’ and feared ‘revenge attacks’. It would take years for her to finally accept that her son was a murderer. In 2017, journalist and author David James Smith published a book titled The Sleep of Reason, which examined the horrific killing of the youngster. He shared new details about the case and spoke about the impact of Thompson’s imprisonment on his mum.
Smith wrote that he had struck up a friendship of sorts with Ann and continued to visit her in the years after her son was jailed. In his book, he claimed she made a video recording of a programme in which James’ devastated mum Denise spoke about the murder. He said Ann would watch it ‘incessantly’.
“Ann had stopped saying, ‘If only that child had been wearing reins, none of this would’ve happened’, but she was still transfixed by Denise and could not turn away from her,” Smith wrote. “Of course, Ann felt desperately guilty and the viewing, I am sure, was in part an act of self-loathing.” He continued: “It took Ann a long time to move from denial to acceptance of what Robert had done. She would tell him she wanted to know everything, when he was ready. She stood by him and visited him regularly throughout the eight long years of his detention.”
Smith recalled dropping Ann off at the secure unit for one such visit, and revealed she would take her other sons to see their jailed brother. “I gave her a lift one afternoon to visit Robert… she pointed him out, waiting at a distant window as I dropped her off – buggy, baby, other son, bags of food and who knows what else, coming out of the boot of my car,” he said.
Smith continued: “Ann kept a suitcase of cuttings about the case that she imagined Robert would see one day when he was old enough. She placed my book in there, she told me, though I dare say things have moved on since then.” The pair eventually fell out after he wrote a story about her video of Denise.
It is believed Ann now goes by a different name and has moved house several times. Thompson, now 41, was released on licence in June 2001 when he was 18 years old. In 2006, it was reported that he had settled down and was in a long-term relationship with a man – and it is believed that his partner knows his true identity.