Irene Hitman, 63, was on her afternoon walk on the grassed surface of a concealed reservoir about one mile from the Bootle shopping centre, where James had been abducted an hour earlier.
She saw three boys, a pair of 10-year-olds with a baby. 'I got close to them because, as I'm walking round with the dog, I heard crying,' Mrs Hitman told Preston Crown Court. The baby was being pulled up a slope. Mrs Hitman asked: 'What's the matter?' One boy replied: 'He fell down there.'
Mrs Hitman said she asked where they were going. She noticed a lump on the right side of the baby's forehead and 'a huge big lump. . . this terrible lump' on the top of his head. The boys said they were going home, and Mrs Hitman told them: 'Hurry up. When you get home, let his mum see his head.'
The baby, later identified by Mrs Hitman as James Bulger, was struggling as he was led away. 'His little legs seemed to be giving out under him,' she told the jury.
Defence counsel questioned Mrs Hitman closely about the boys' intentions. She told the jury they claimed to be going home; she presumed they were brothers. But in her statement to police, given the day after James disappeared, Mrs Hitman recalled the boys claiming they did not know the baby. They told her they were taking him to a police station. The prosecution says both boys intended to seriously harm or kill James.
The boys, who may be identified only as A and B, deny abducting James and stoning him to death; they also plead not guilty to the attempted abduction of another child.
Mrs Hitman said her statement to police was inaccurate. She could not accept a suggestion by Brian Walsh QC, for Boy B, that her recollection of events had been confused with that of her friend, Jean Francis.
Mrs Francis, 60, also saw the boys at the reservoir, she told the jury. The little boy had smiled. There seemed nothing wrong with him. At about 5.30pm on 12 February, Esther Brown saw a little boy with three bigger boys, one of whom had a bike. 'He just looked at me, the little boy, as if to say: 'I'm looking for my mum'.'
The trial was adjourned until Monday.Reuse content