James Bulger's mother vows to continue fight for change 30 years after son's murder

ITV News' Mary Nightingale speaks to James' mother Denise as she vows to continue her fight for justice 30 years after the tragic murder of her son

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since the murder of James Bulger plunged Britain into a state of horrified disbelief.

The details still vivid, and still almost impossible to process.

Some crimes have the power to cut through the everyday noise of news.

Offences so terrible they force us to reassess what we consider "normal" or even remotely possible - making us question our assumptions about good and evil.

The abduction of a two-year-old boy from his mother’s side in a Merseyside shopping centre.

James Bulger was abducted from his mother’s side in a Merseyside shopping centre. Credit: ITV News

The discovery of his tiny body days later, abandoned on a railway track. Dragged miles from where he’d been snatched.

Abused, tortured and killed. By two 10-year-old boys.

The reality of what happened on February 12, 1993 is still profoundly shocking.

I spent time with James’ mother Denise, this week. Discussing the tragedy that ripped her family apart, and trying to grasp how it is possible even to survive after such devastation.

To call her remarkable is an understatement.

From the moment her precious boy disappeared that day, Denise has been fighting.

Determined to do right by James and trying to salvage something - anything - positive from her loss.

Even before James she’d faced heartbreak. Her first baby, Kirsty, was stillborn, so she says she’d always held James that much tighter.

The guilt she feels about what happened that day is still raw. She briefly let go of his hand to pay for her shopping.

It was as simple as that. It was only for an instant. But when she looked round James had vanished.

James’ mother Denise has vowed to continue her fight. Credit: ITV News

Parents everywhere shuddered and thought: "There but for the grace of god…"

We all know too well the clutch of panic when we lose sight of our child.

The surge of relief when they reappear after seconds that feel like hours. We’ve all been there.

But for Denise that relief never came. For all those years she has berated herself, and to mark the 30th anniversary of James' murder she has written new chapters for the book she wrote around the events titled, 'I Let Him Go'.

“I should never have let go of his hand," she told ITV News.

Since his death she has gone on to have three further sons – all adults now.

Her second marriage, to Stuart, has brought her stability and contentment.

She is fiercely proud of the happiness she has achieved, despite the appalling tragedy.

But of course the grief never fades. And, decades on, she is still angry.

At every stage she felt let down by a legal system which, she believes, was too soft on the children – Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – who had committed child murder.

Police handout photo of Jon Venables (left) and Robert Thompson. Credit: PA

Their eight-year sentence in a young offenders institution, she says, delivering them a life of luxury they’d never have enjoyed at home. Video games, hot meals, security.

Denise claims they were indulged and, in effect, rewarded for their crime - while she and her family were cast adrift.

She says she was not notified of their release until after they had walked free - complete with new identities and fresh lives.

She repeatedly warned they would re-offend, but she says nobody listened.

Venables has since been recalled to prison twice over possession of images of extreme child sexual abuse. He could be out again later this year.

Denise is certain he remains a danger to children and says the parole board’s claims of his rehabilitation are fanciful.

She is insistent Venables should never be released, and continues to campaign for James.

She’s pushing for reform of a parole system she believes fails the victims of crime by prioritising the wellbeing of offenders over those they harm.

She is pushing for a public enquiry into how James’ case was dealt with.

James Bulger was tragically murdered aged just two-years-old. Credit: ITV News

Throughout her ordeal Denise has never felt listened to. Never asked her opinion, she says, or given a voice.

But, after all this time, she feels progress is finally being made.

The introduction of victim impact statements in court is largely due to the efforts of Denise and her lawyer.

She has met the Justice Secretary Dominic Raab and the new head of the Parole Board, and is cautiously optimistic that things might change.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice spokesperson told ITV News: “The Deputy Prime Minister will do everything in his power to keep dangerous offenders behind bars and has set out plans to overhaul the parole process and put victims at the heart of the process.”

But Denise fights on. She cannot forgive. She will not forget.

A mother determined to get justice for the toddler whose hand slipped from hers 30 years ago.

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