James Bulger 'hurt within yards of shopping centre'

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JAMES BULGER'S ordeal was endured in public. He was seen crying when still within yards of the shopping centre where his mother searched frantically for her abducted two-year-old.

Preston Crown Court was told yesterday that two bigger boys were watched soon after, swinging an infant by his arms, dragging him along the street. James's forehead was bumped and grazed while still within sight of the Strand mall, Bootle, Merseyside.

By the time his two alleged abductors reached a church half a mile away, James was flushed and crying.

The prosecution claims two 10-year-old boys took James from the precinct on 12 February and led him more than two miles to a railway embankment in Walton, Liverpool, where they stoned him to death. The boys, who may be identified only as A and B, deny the abduction and murder of James and the attempted abduction of another child.

The jury yesterday heard a total of 13 witnesses to the first 70 minutes James spent separated from his mother, Denise. Magdaleen Kehoe was in a precinct cafe when she noticed a small child who resembled her grandson. He was alone and Ms Kehoe was about to go to his help. 'I thought he was going to look around for his mum,' she said. But a bigger boy appeared. He waved to James, who skipped and ran toward him. They disappeared across the mall square.

Outside the Strand, a taxi driver waiting on the rank saw two boys dragging along a toddler. David Keay watched one boy hoist the infant and hold him across his chest. Another boy was walking alongside.

A little boy was seen distressed and crying outside the precinct and by the canal nearby. Lorna Brown broke down as she told the jury: 'Something inside me wondered if the child was OK.'

She had noticed two boys crossing the street. They had a smaller child with them whose forehead bore 'a fresh bump'. The infant had stumbled. One of the boys picked him up, Ms Brown said. Moments later, she looked back, but 'there was nobody there'.

The prosecution claimed James was taken past a church where Kathleen Richardson was looking from the window of a bus. Ms Richardson said that two boys twice swung a baby high above their shoulders; one boy let go his grasp. Ms Richardson said from her seat behind the driver: 'What the hell are those kids doing to that poor child?'

Clare Patterson broke down after giving evidence that she had seen two boys holding the hands of a toddler, pulling him across the road.

At a roundabout about half a mile from the precinct, Mark Pimblett, a van driver, saw two lads holding a little boy by his arms. They were trying to pull him, but the baby was resisting, Mr Pimblett told the jury. As he drove away, Mr Pimblett looked in his mirror. He saw one boy kick the child in his side below the shoulder, not very hard, as if trying to persuade him along.

The trial continues today.