Counsel for Child A told Preston Crown Court the 'terrible and terrifying' attack on two-year-old James was initiated and carried out by Child B.
Counsel for Child B said Child A was 'a confident, cocky, arrogant little liar'. His client could well be guilty of manslaughter, but not murder. Both boys have pleaded not guilty to the abduction and murder on 12 February of James, and the attempted abduction of another child. Counsel for both said it would have been an impossible burden for either to give evidence.
David Turner QC, for A, said James was taken from his mother's side at the Strand shopping precinct, Bootle, by two boys who became 'saddled with their own mischief'. The prosecution claims the pair, in a joint enterprise, took James two and a half miles to a railway embankment at Walton, Liverpool, where together they stoned and beat him to death.
It might be impossible ever to understand the killing, Mr Turner said, but he suggested to the jury that two 'mindless shoplifters and truants' could not have plotted such a crime. They were more like street urchins looking for trouble. They thought it might be amusing to play a prank, to irritate a mother by making her think her child was missing. The prank went wrong, Mr Turner said.
He said the evidence pointed to B as the culprit. Earlier, he had tried to entice two other children. It was B, appraised by one witness as being the boy in control, who told A to get hold of the toddler's hand. Only one witness had seen A harm James, and that was an unreliable sighting gained briefly through a driver's rear-view mirror.
Boy A had consistently denied to police that he had taken part in the killing. Mr Turner said B had invented an entirely false account of his movements. Then he admitted: 'I did kill him.' Subsequently, B sought to withdraw from his admission and place the blame on A who, Mr Turner claimed, was involved only in the abduction of James and the concealment of his body.
Brian Walsh QC, for B, said A had lied during protracted interviews with police. He had been assertive and often argumentative. If A cried, the tears were for him, a boy who said or did something that prevented B from doing what he had wanted to do. Boy B had wanted to take James into the police station close to the railway.
Mr Walsh said transcripts of B's police interrogation revealed 'a sad, diffident, unhappy boy'. He had confessed to playing a part in the killing but, although he could be guilty of manslaughter, he did not have the intention of causing serious harm.
He told police he had wanted for a long time to tell the truth. He was inhibited from honesty by the rejection he feared he would suffer from his mother, a powerful personality present at his early interviews.
And it was B, Mr Walsh said, who, unlike A, had shown remorse and asked police to tell James's mother he was sorry. 'His tears and his distress were genuine,' Mr Walsh said. Boy B could no longer talk about the episode, and was unable to give evidence.
'This isn't a boy who is trying totally to absolve himself. He's admitted to his part,' Mr Walsh said. The part B admitted was 'shameful behaviour . . . but shameful behaviour doesn't amount to murder'.
The trial continues today.Reuse content