The director of a new James Bulger film which ‘humanises’ the two killers has faced criticism after it was revealed he did not tell the toddler’s family about the movie.
Vincent Lambe appeared on Good Morning Britain to defend his right to make the short film Detainment, which has been shortlisted for an Academy Award.
The toddler was killed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both aged 10, after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside in 1993.
However the filmmaker revealed that the 30-minute movie was made without the consent of James’ mother Denise Fergus as she would have said ‘no’.
The film is made up of almost entirely of verbatim quotes from interview transcripts and shows the two young killers crying and asking for their parents as detectives quiz them over the shocking death of James.
Mr Lambe was grilled by co-presenters Ben Shepherd and Kate Garraway over the decision, admitting that the film would be a ‘tough watch for them’.
The director of a new film about James Bulger (left) which ‘humanises’ his two killers faced criticism after revealing he did not tell James’ mother Denise Fergus (right) about the movie
Vincent Lambe appeared on Good Morning Britain to defend his right to make the short film Detainment, which has been shortlisted for an Academy Award
They asked him several times why he had failed to notify Denise of his attention to make the film.
Asked if he did not ask the family as he feared they would say not to make the film, he said: ‘Well it probably wouldn’t have been made if she’d have said “no”.’
He added: ‘The reason I made this film, people think they were evil and they were born evil and I don’t think it was as simple as that.
‘If people don’t see them as human, they won’t begin to understand.
‘It is a short film, it is not a film I made to profit from financially, I was as surprised as anyone when it was shortlisted for the Oscars.’
Ben replied: ‘For them, the idea of you making this film, which is about what happened to their small child, is abhorrent, undoubtedly.
‘There argument will be that “you didn’t contact us, you didn’t ask us, you didn’t talk to us about it”.’
Mr Lambe said: ‘I have enormous sympathy for the Bulger family and when I think about what they’ve been through it breaks my heart.’
Mr Lambe was grilled by co-presenters Ben Shepherd and Kate Garraway over the decision, admitting that the film would be a ‘tough watch for them’
Venables (left) and Thompson (right), played by child actors in the film, were both 10-years-old when they shocked Britain by abducting James, then just two-years-old
Pictured is a still from the film Detainment, showing young actor Ely Solan in his portrayal of Jon Venables
He added that the film ‘isn’t meant to bring anymore anguish’ to the family, causing Ben to retort: ‘You don’t think it will?’
‘Well I think it will be a very difficult watch for them. I hope they understand,’ replied Mr Lambe.
‘It’s still one of those cases that can cause public outrage. At the time, it was just unprecedented.
‘People couldn’t understand how ten year old boys could do this. If it was an adult who killed the child, people would have moved on.
‘It was just so unusual and it’s so deeply ingrained in people’s memories.’
Good Morning Britain revealed that Denise had told them she was unhappy that the film was made without her consent and would appear on the show tomorrow.
Venables and Thompson, played by child actors in the film, were both 10-years-old when they shocked Britain by abducting James, then just two-years-old.
The crime made the boys the youngest killers in modern English history and public enemy number one with millions of Brits.
Venables and Thompson snatched Bulger from outside a butcher’s shop (pictured) in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, while his mother popped into a store for just a few seconds
The toddler’s mutilated body was found on a railway line in Walton, Liverpool, two days after he went missing
The duo snatched Bulger from outside a butcher’s shop in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, while his mother popped into a store for just a few seconds.
The toddler’s mutilated body was found on a railway line in Walton, Liverpool, two days later.
Venables and Thompson were found guilty of killing Bulger in November 1993 and were sentenced to custody until they reached 18.
They were freed in 2001 after serving eight years behind bars, but by 2010 Venables was back in prison for violating the terms of his release by possessing child porn.
It was revealed that he had downloaded and distributed more than 100 images of child abuse, some involving victims as young as two being raped.
In one instance he messaged another paedophile claiming to be a married mother who abused her eight-year-old daughter, and offered to sell access to the child.
He was freed from prison for the second time in 2013 after a recommendation from the Parole Board.
At the time, Denise and Ralph Bulger said they were ‘filled with terror’ by the decision to grant parole to Venables.
Timeline: James Bulger’s murder and the conviction of his killers
- February 12: Two-year-old James Bulger is snatched during a shopping trip to the Strand shopping centre, in Bootle, Merseyside.
- February 14: The toddler’s battered body is found by children playing on a freight railway line 200 yards from Walton Lane police station, Liverpool, and more than two miles from the Strand shopping centre.
- February 18: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10-year-olds, are arrested in connection with the murder of James, and later charged. They are the youngest to be charged with murder in the 20th century.
- February 22: There are violent scenes outside South Sefton Magistrates’ Court in Bootle, when the two primary school pupils, then known as Child A and Child B, make their first appearance.
- November 24: Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, now both aged 11, are convicted of James Bulger’s murder following a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court. They are ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, the normal substitute sentence for life imprisonment when the offender is a juvenile.
A surveillance camera shows the abduction of two-year-old James Bulger from the Bootle Strand shopping mall February 12 1993
- July: The eight year sentence tariff set by the trial judge, which has already been increased to 10 years by Lord Chief Justice Lord Taylor of Gosforth, is increased again to 15 years by the Home Secretary Michael Howard.
- June: The Law Lords rule by a majority that Mr Howard has acted illegally in raising the boys’ tariff.
- March: The European Commission on Human Rights finds that Thompson and Venables were denied a fair trial and fair sentencing by an impartial and independent tribunal.
- March: Home Secretary Jack Straw says he will not set a date for Thompson and Venables’ release.
- October: Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf reinstates the trial judge’s original tariff, paving the way for their release.
- January: James Bulger’s killers win an unprecedented court order from High Court judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss which grants them anonymity for the rest of their lives.
- June: Thompson and Venables are freed under new identities.
- September: Venables is arrested on suspicion of affray after he and another man become involved in a drunken street fight. He is given a formal warning by the Probation Service about breaching the good behaviour expected of him as a condition of his licence.
- Later the same year he is cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug, which was said to be for personal use. The public remained unaware of both offences until 2010.
- March 2: Venables is returned to prison after breaching the terms of his release, the Ministry of Justice says. It kick-starts frenzied media speculation over the nature of the alleged breach.
- April 16: Prosecutors handed a police file over the latest allegations.
- June 21: A judge at the Old Bailey lifts media restrictions, allowing it to be reported that Venables has been charged with downloading and distributing child pornography.
- July 23: Venables pleads guilty to the charges. He is sentenced to two years in prison. James Bulger’s mother Denise Fergus attacks the length of sentence as ‘simply not enough’.
- July 30: A judge rules Venables’ new identity must be kept secret because of the ‘compelling evidence’ of a threat to his safety, saying ‘unpopular’ defendants had as much right to protection from retribution as anyone else.
- July 4: Venables is granted parole.
- Venables is in prison again after allegedly being caught with indecent images of children.
- He admits child pornography charges and is jailed for 40 months.