'Punished? They have been rewarded for their crime'

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The Independent Online

The murder of James Bulger by two local 10-year-old boys was a deeply painful experience for the people of Liverpool, provoking an outpouring of anger. Eight years later, that anger was still palpable outside the shopping centre in Bootle where the two-year-old was abducted prior to his murder.

Ann Potter, 58, a grandmother and assembly worker in James's home town of Kirkby, said: "Letting them out is a disgrace. I am certain they will kill again and I have grandchildren to worry about. For young boys to have acted in such a way is pure evil and I don't think they'll ever change."

Feelings in the city were running so high in 1993 that the trial of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables had to be switched to Preston Crown Court after violent scenes in Liverpool.

Joe Potter, 61, a retired joiner, said the pair had benefited from their crime. "It's disgusting for the Parole Board to have let these evil people out. They were old enough to kill a child so they are old enough to suffer the punishment.

"But instead of being punished they have been given a fantastic education and a new house for their family.

"They have been rewarded for what they have done. They have not even spent one day in prison for their crime."

In his Liverpool office, Rex Makin, solicitor for James's father Ralph, described the Parole Board's decision as "expected, horrific, insensitive and badly-timed".

But no one in Merseyside was angrier than the dead boy's mother, Denise Fergus. "I am disgusted with the Government and the Parole Board," she said. "Once again they have been sucked in by two devious murderers, "James's life was taken in a way that no one could imagine and for what?

Ms Fergus, who said earlier that the two killers should serve 15 to 20 years, warned that the carefully-laid plans to protect their anonymity would not be effective. "Thompson and Venables may think they have got off lightly and can hide. But I know different. I know no matter where they go someone out there is waiting."