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The Longer Read

How did so many miss the sinister warning signs about James Bulger’s killer for so long?

As Jon Venables is denied his bid for freedom because of his ‘long term sexual interest in children’, David James Smith - who has had access to his files and court papers over many years - asks why he was ever considered low risk to the public and a suitable case for parole

Wednesday 13 December 2023 16:45 GMT
<p>Jon Venables, 10, in police custody in 1993</p>

Jon Venables, 10, in police custody in 1993

When did Jon Venables become a paedophile? And why? Those questions will have been at the heart of the Parole Board’s considerations in recent weeks – if not years – as they tried to determine whether he still poses a serious risk of harm to the public.

They are issues for Venables himself too. On Wednesday 13 December it was revealed that he has admitted to the board his “long-term sexual interest in children/indecent images of children”. The board acknowledged he had “completed a considerable amount of work in prison to address this area of risk”. It heard that some of the professionals working with Venables believed he was safe to be freed. But the panel assessing his case was still concerned by “continuing issues of sexual preoccupation in this case” and declined to release him agreeing there were “future risks” of him viewing indecent images of children and “progressing to offences where he might have contact with children”. He will remain in prison for the foreseeable future.

Venables’ sexual interest in children was first revealed in early 2010, in the most extraordinary circumstances, and purely by chance. He had been freed from eight years’ detention in 2001, for his role in the 1993 murder of two-year-old James Bulger, alongside Robert Thompson, when they were both aged 10. They had abducted James from Bootle Strand mall in north Liverpool, while his mother Denise was busy at a shop counter. They walked and carried him for two and a half miles, deflecting the attentions of numerous adults along the way, until they reached the little-used railway line at Walton, where they killed him during an assault with paint, batteries, bricks and a heavy metal plate.

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