Bulger killers 'bound to be discovered'

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The secret identities and whereabouts of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the killers of James Bulger, are in danger of becoming public knowledge within weeks, Home Office ministers believe.

A senior government official has admitted to The Independent on Sunday that it will be impossible to prevent vigilante groups tracking down Thompson and Venables, who were released on Friday on life licences. "There are fears that this may happen any day," the source said.

One newspaper is at the centre of a contempt inquiry after it alluded to the boys' whereabouts. The Attorney General will decide in the next few days whether to prosecute The Manchester Evening News for breaching a High Court injunction which forbids any mention of the new identities or location of the killers.

Police have launched an investigation into the leaking of photographs that could identify the killers, who have been released after eight years in secure units. The 1993 pictures were broadcast on Channel 4 and published in the press.