'You look at him and you say to yourself, 'How could you be involved in anything like this?' ' she said. 'On the other hand, you are looking at him and you are saying 'Well, I know why - because he is so weak'. He did like to be liked, and loved to have friends, and he has got involved with the wrong person.'
She said that Jon was always 'loving, caring, thoughtful and considerate . . . fun to be with'. He always had plenty of friends.
'It is hard to take in really. We feel so sorry for him because he must be going through so much torment. You know, we just try and help him as best we can to try to come to terms with things. Our feelings haven't changed towards him. We still think the same of him as we always have. I would say he was provoked. He is one of those children that if you told him to put his hand in the fire, he would.
'He is easily led. He didn't want to hurt James. He was fearful of the other boy. He was fearful, he was weak and he was provoked.
'All he said when we've said 'Why didn't you run away?' and things like that is that he was frightened. He said he was frightened of Robert's older brother. Robert said 'If you tell anybody I'll get my big brother to batter you up'.'
Her husband, Neil, said: 'If you had a league table of children, you would put him at the bottom of the list for anything like this.'
Jon's parents, who sat in court for most of the trial, said they grieved for the Bulgers.
'My heart really goes out to them. I wish we could turn the clocks back,' Mrs Venables, 36, said. 'I think about little James and what he must have gone through, how they must feel. I know how I feel as a mother. It is just heartbreaking.'
Neil Venables, 40, said he felt 'just devastated, thinking of that little boy'. Wiping away tears, he went on: 'I feel for that family. I feel so sorry for them. I have lost my son as well. We will never be able to do the fun things any more . . . football, snooker, things like that.
'Just TV programmes and little things remind me of the good times we had together . . . I just think of James and his Dad and about all that fun with his little boy, like I had with Jon.'
He said that on the day James was killed, when he went to the school in the afternoon to collect Jon he was told his son was missing. 'I walked round for a couple of hours trying to find them. I came back and then (Mrs Venables) went out.
Mrs Venables described how she searched for Jon. 'I even went up to the railway line because I knew the other boy had a den up there and was on the railway nearly all the time.'
Weeping, she said: 'I wasn't actually on the railway track because there is a fence, but I went up the side. There is, like, a little paint factory.
'It was very dark and I shouted down, shouted his name. That's the thing that upsets me because obviously, where I was standing poor
little James must have been not
far . . . '
Mr Venables said it had never crossed their minds that the video pictures from the security cameras in the shopping centre from which James went missing showed their own son.
He had been quiet that weekend, they said, but they had thought that was because his mother had taken him to the police station on the Friday evening for playing truant.
The couple, who are living together again after a partial separation, said their feelings towards Jon had not changed despite the terrible crime.
They said their son met Robert Thompson in September 1991, when Jon was transferred from another school. Both boys had been held back a year, and they were put in the same class.
Mrs Venables said: 'I think it was because the class group was too big for them to go in . . . so they were put in a lower year.
'I think my son's concentration wasn't the way it should have been, but he wasn't slow. He's quite bright and clever. He's a good reader if he's interested in it.
'He tends to be a bit hyperactive so his concentration did go a bit, but apart from that he is quite bright, no worries.'
She said an educational psychologist had diagnosed hyperactivity in her son, who was bullied at his previous school.
'I don't think we went wrong as parents at all. He has had more love and attention than a lot of children I know. He has been educated. He has never really been what you would call a sagger off school (a truant). He has had his holidays like everyone else. He has had Christmas presents.
'Contrary to what the papers will tell you, he is not a little urchin boy. He is far from it. He has had security with loving parents and a loving brother and sister.'
Mr Venables said that the two boys had played truant together four times before, adding that he caught them twice. On one occasion, he said, Robert ran off down the street laughing, 'You can't catch me'.
The couple, who also have a 13- year-old son, who has learning difficulties, and a 9-year-old daughter, denied that Jon was bullied by his brother or that he watched violent horror films at home.
They rejected suggestions that he could have watched Child's Play Three, a film that his father had rented three weeks before James's death, which, it has been claimed, included scenes similar to those of the attack on the two-year-old.
Mr Venables said: 'He wouldn't watch horror. He would go to bed. I used to get them for myself at night time. I would get him something like a cartoon.'
He denied having had any films that were not mainstream, or that were pornographic, in the house. 'I don't like them,' he said.
Jon's parents said they talked to their son about James after he was arrested, but had to stop.
Mrs Venables said: 'He mentions James, not all the time. But now and again. He gets upset. He says 'I know, Mum'. He is broken- hearted over it.
'What he's done is wrong so he needs to be punished. What upsets me is I've no way of bringing
him up for the rest of his young years so he's going to lose all his childhood.'
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