Bulger report in tabloid was 'fictitious'

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The Independent Online

The mother of one of the two boys convicted of murdering James Bulger has made an official complaint over a newspaper report claiming she said her son would be dead within a month of being released.

Susan Venables has contacted the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), saying she never spoke to the News of the World, which published the report last Sunday. It said that Ms Venables feared her son Jon would be murdered by vigilantes within four weeks of being released at the same time as Robert Thompson. Ms Venables was not quoted directly in the report, but the paper said she had told friends: "Jon will be dead within four weeks. I just know it."

The pair, now aged 18, served eight years for the murder of James Bulger after abducting him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside in 1993. They have been granted an open-ended injunction protecting their anonymity.

An unnamed family friend was quoted as saying: "Susan has no doubt in her mind. She's convinced that her son will be dead in a month. She simply cannot see how he will stay alive." The friend was said to have added: "Susan fears there is a long list of people who would willingly kill Jon and she does not believe that he can be sufficiently protected. His whereabouts will be known within days and he will be dead within weeks. She believes the only chance he had to survive was to be moved abroad and that will not happen."

Ms Venables is understood to view the report of her reaction to the release of her son as "pure fiction". Her solicitor, John Dickinson, said yesterday that she had not spoken to the News of the World and had not made the comments attributed to her. He had been instructed to file a complaint to the PCC that the paper had broken two clauses of its code of conduct dealing with accuracy and harassment.

Mr Dickinson said: "They did not contact her and she did not speak to the press. She has not spoken to the press since shortly after the original trial.''

He said Ms Venables was seeking a "correction and an apology''. Mr Dickinson, of the London law firm Bhatt Murphy, has been representing the Venables family since 1994.

Stuart Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World, said yesterday: "We have not been notified of any complaint from Mrs Venables. In the event of a complaint to the PCC we shall respond in the normal way."

James Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus, has said she does not want vigilantes to take the lives of his killers, but was happy for people to let them know "we're still here". She said she was frightened of an innocent person being mistaken for her son's killers, but added: "Right now I think they are still dangerous and the saying goes, 'Once a murderer, always a murderer'.

"I'm not going to hunt them down, try and kill them, but if it happens then I can't stop it. I think no matter where they go anyway we're going to find out and here's my advice to everyone out there listening to this – just don't kill them. Just let them know that we're still here and we won't go away. All we asked for at the end of the day was justice and we didn't get that."

Ralph Bulger, the toddler's father, called for restraint last week after the Parole Board decided they would be released.