Murder police take it gently: Detectives given more time to question two 10-year-old boys over killing of James Bulger

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The Independent Online
DETECTIVES were last night still questioning two boys arrested in connection with the murder of two-year-old James Bulger, snatched from a Liverpool shopping centre a week ago.

Magistrates last night granted police a further 36 hours - until 7am tomorrow - to question them. Officers arrested the two 10-year-olds at separate addresses in the Walton area of the city early on Thursday morning, but only gave details 24 hours later.

The boys, it emerged yesterday, were already being questioned as police renewed appeals for information and showed enhanced pictures from a security video on BBC television's Crimewatch programme on Thursday night.

Yesterday Detective Superintendent Albert Kirby, in charge of the investigation, said he had been overwhelmed by more than 300 calls during and after the programme, and was particularly interested in three names that had been used repeatedly.

Det Supt Kirby explained that the process of interviewing the two 10-year- olds, who are being held at separate police stations in the city, was going to be a long, slow job.

'You have to be very gentle, very soft with them,' he said on the steps of the incident room at Marsh Lane police station. 'You have to remember that they are 10 years of age. You have to forget what has taken place. In the end, we have a job to do. They have got legal representatives present. They have their own parents present. It is just going to be a very long, slow interview.'

He refused to be drawn on how he would proceed next. 'It's very difficult with children of that age. The severity of the incident obviously plays a greater part in the course of action we do take. But we have a great deal of talking to do with the lawyers and the social services as to what we can do and where we can ultimately go.'

It became clear during the day that the two boys had been taken into custody in a low-key operation which involved members of the Serious Crime Squad and the Operational Support Division. Senior officers had been extremely concerned when disturbances broke out after the arrest of a 12-year- old boy in the Kirkdale area on Tuesday.

Police last night mounted a guard on the home of one of the arrested boys, who lived just yards from where the body of James was found last Saturday. A policeman and woman were posted at the front door of the house and officers from the Operational Support Division patrolled the area. Some neighbours and children stood out in the street, though the situation remained calm.

At the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, where James disappeared, shoppers observed a minute's silence yesterday.

And last night more than 1,000 people packed into St Mary's Church in the Northwood area of Kirby for a service in memory of James. Several hundred others, many holding their own young children, were forced to stand outside the simple modern church and listen to the address and poetry reading on loudspeakers. The service was led by Fr Liam O'Callaghan, who has been counselling James's parents. During the service many of the congregation lit candles in memory of the little boy.

Fr Michael O'Connell, of St Mary's, told them: 'The terrible death of James reminds us of the very real possibility of evil, evil in each one of us, and certainly evil in young people. We must together oppose this.

'But also we must ask God for his grace for the love of Jesus to overcome that evil. But it's on an occasion such as this that the amazing strength of our community here in Kirby can be seen. I have never seen such a scene.'

People arrested must be either charged or released within 36 hours unless magistrates grant the police an extension of custody.

Ten-year-olds are deemed criminally responsible for their actions and can be charged with crimes, but in the case of defendants between 10 and 14 years old the prosecution has to prove not only that the children did the crimes they are accused of, but also that they realised that what they were doing was wrong.

The court's power to detain people convicted so young is limited, except in cases of murder or manslaughter, where they could be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. Up to the age of 16 youngsters would be detained at a youth treatment centre run by the Department of Health, before being transferred to a young offenders' centre until they were 21.

Adult justice, page 2

Leading article, page 12

Letters, page 13

Sandra Barwick, page 13

(Photograph omitted)

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