Thompson and Venables living in 'halfway houses'

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The Independent Online

The killers of two-year-old James Bulger have left their secure care units and are living in halfway houses, it emerged on Friday.

Robert Thompson and Jon Venables went on short holidays in Britain almost immediately after the Parole Board decision last month to grant their freedom. There were unconfirmed reports that one went to the Lake District and the other to the Midlands. They returned from the trips, lasting several days, and went straight into separate halfway houses rather than the local authority secure units in which they had been kept since being convicted of James's murder in 1993.

The pair – who were 10 years old when they abducted James from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, and beat him to death – both have their 19th birthdays next month. They have been released on life licences which can be revoked at any time.

They have been given new identities and will be kept under close supervision by social workers and probation officers until it is believed the time is right for them to be let back into the community. As part of their parole regulations, neither can contact the other, approach any member of James's family or return to Merseyside.

A source said: "They were sent away from their care units for about a week, more or less as soon as the parole board hearings were over. You might call it a holiday or you might say it was for reasons of security, to get them away from the local authority homes during the initial public uproar. When they returned ... they went straight into the halfway houses."

The regime of a halfway house still places considerable limits on personal freedom, the source said. "They will probably have less privacy ... than they did in the secure unit. These houses are not palatial and the boys will be under 24-hour care, at least in the initial stages. Everything they want to do ... will be accompanied and supervised."