Preston Crown Court was told that two 11-year-olds kicked and bullied the child as they forced him to walk two-and-a-half miles across the city. The two accused - who were only 10 at the time of the attack and who cannot be named for legal reasons - both plead not guilty to abducting and murdering James, from Kirkby, Merseyside, on 12 February this year.
The boys, the youngest defendants to face murder charges this century, also deny attempting to abduct a second two-year-old boy on the same day.
Both schoolboys were playing truant at the Strand precinct in Bootle, Merseyside, on the day James, his mother Denise and her sister-in-law Nicola Bailey went shopping there.
'On several occasions, James broke free from his mother and ran off,' Richard Henriques, for the prosecution, said. 'He seemed to be in high spirits.' In one shop a babysuit fell on his head and he started throwing it about. In Tesco's he helped himself to some Smarties.
At 3.40pm Mrs Bulger and her sister-in-law Nicola Bailey went into the A R Timms butcher's shop. Mrs Bulger believed James was by her side as she was served at the counter. 'But she looked down and he was gone,' Mr Henriques said.
Mrs Bulger panicked and started looking for James. But just three minutes later the two schoolboys were filmed by security cameras leaving the precinct with James.
The jury was told that various witnesses remembered seeing James with the two boys. Some saw he was sobbing; some saw him trying to run away only to be easily caught again by the boys; and then others saw him being dragged along with cuts to his face.
Mr Henriques said: 'You will hear time and again of witnesses seeing a little child clearly very distressed but each appeared to have taken the same view, the little child must have been with an older brother or brothers and was being looked after.'
A delivery van driver saw two boys with another younger boy. They were on either side of him and were each holding one of the younger boy's arms, using both their arms, and were dragging him in an effort to make him move.
'The child was lagging back as if he did not want to go with them,' Mr Henriques said.
As he drove away, the van driver watched in his mirror as a boy in black clothing kicked the young boy in the ribs under his right arm with his left foot.
'It was not a full-blooded kick but one of persuasion, in other words to make him move,' he said.
At Breeze Hill reservoir, a woman with a dog saw two boys with a sobbing child. They each had hold of one of the child's hand.
She asked what was going on and one of the boys told her they had just found the child at the bottom of the embankment. She saw he had two bumps on his head, one on the right side of the forehead and one on top of his head.
She asked both boys if they knew the toddler and they said they did not. She told them they should get treatment for his injury and they both said they would take him to the police station.
They were later seen immediately next to the railway line about two hours after James's initial abduction, Mr Henriques said. A man who saw them in an entry to a railway bridge heard one of the older boys say: 'I'm fed up having my little brother, he's always the same, I'm not bringing him again.'
Later at about 6.45pm, a taxi driver in nearby Cherry Lane, Woolton, saw two youths on the railway embankment, although he did not say he could identify them.
'It was accordingly between 5.30pm and 6.45pm that James was stoned and beaten to death before being placed across a railway line,' Mr Henriques said.
''The prosecution contend that they did this all together - the taking in the precinct, the journey across Liverpool, the taking on to the railway line, the causing of death and together they left James on the line. They were seen together afterwards in one another's company,' Mr Henriques said.
He added: 'They walked him some two-and-a-half-miles across Liverpool to Walton Village - a very long and distressing walk for a two-year-old toddler. James was then taken up on to a railway line. He was subjected by the two defendants to a prolonged and violent attack. Bricks, stones and a piece of metal appear to have been thrown at James on that railway line. He sustained many fractures to the skull. Notwithstanding their age it is alleged that they both intended either to kill James or at least to cause him really serious injury and they both knew their behaviour was seriously wrong.'
Mr Henriques said the pathologist found many severe injuries not caused by the impact from the train. They were a result of multiple blows to the head which caused multiple fractures of the skull.
Lacerated wounds to the head were compatible with a heavy blunt object damaging the head. And damage to the mouth and the lower lip were consistent with substantial blows from a heavy object or brick.
James's right cheek showed a patterned bruise as a result of a severe blow from a shoe or other patterned object.
Blood was found on the shoes of both defendants and there was enough on both of B's shoes to carry out a DNA test. 'The blood on B's shoes matched the DNA profile of James's blood,' Mr Henriques said.
The case was adjourned until today.
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