The mother of a British boy who was brutally tortured and murdered almost 30 years ago has spoken out about her disgust over a movie recently made about the case. Staggeringly, the mother was not even notified about the film prior to it being produced. James Bulger was just 2 years old when he was savagely murdered by a pair of schoolboys in a case that sent shockwaves throughout the United Kingdom.
“Detainment,” which was written and directed by Irish film-maker Vincent Lambe, is a vivid reconstruction of the police interrogation of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the 10-year-olds who were convicted of the heinous crimes. Thompson and Venables abducted the toddler from a Liverpool shopping mall, before leading him on a meandering walk through the city during which they threw him on his head, causing severe facial injuries.
The boys then led Bulger to an abandoned railway track, where they tortured him with batteries and paint, before dropping a 22 lb iron railway fishplate on his head, shattering his skull. The youngsters then lay Bulger’s battered body on an in-use railway track, hoping that the impact of a train would cover up their murderous actions. Bulger’s severed corpse was later discovered with ten skull fractures and forty-two other serious injuries.
Bulger’s mother, Denise Fergus, said she was “disgusted and upset” with the release of the movie, which has been nominated for an Oscar.
“It’s one thing making a film like this without contacting or getting permission from James’s family but another to have a child re-enact the final hours of James’s life before he was brutally murdered and making myself and my family have to relive this all over again!” Fergus wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.
This is all I want to say at present. pic.twitter.com/GbyshtVoa9
— Denise Fergus (@Denise_fergus) January 22, 2019
Over 160,000 people have signed a Change.org petition that calls for the film to be pulled from theaters and removed from the Oscar nomination list.
“This petition is to stop James Bulger movie about his murders from being shown and the Oscar nomination taken away,” the description reads.
“It is a heartless thing to do, there was no discussion to [James’s] family about this movie being made and given the ok to go ahead. If any movie is being made that involves real life stories should always check with the victims families before they start filming and should be law. Victims and their families must come first,” it reads.
Bulger’s father, Ralph, has also been forthright in his criticism of the movie’s release.
“Hollywood should hang its head in shame,” he told the Daily Mirror. “There are some things that should be off limits and the murder of a baby is one of them … To Hollywood, it is just another film. But to me and my family it is a living nightmare. Those behind the Oscar nominations knew how we felt about this film and the director.”
“We’ve been very public about how devastating it is to see such a sympathetic portrayal of James’s killers,” he said. “The boys who killed James are now grown men, one is inside again for child abuse offenses. But will they remember that on Oscar night in their fancy dresses and tuxedos?”
In response to the parents’ criticism, “Detainment” director Vincent Lambe issued a statement via Twitter.
“I have enormous sympathy for the Bulger family and I am extremely sorry for any upset the film may have caused them,” he wrote. “With hindsight, I am sorry I did not make Mrs. Fergus aware of the film. I would be happy to meet with her privately now to make that apology in person, to explain our reasons for making the film and offer my heartfelt reassurances that I never intended any disrespect by not consulting her.”
My Statement addressing questions which have arisen from the short film 'Detainment': pic.twitter.com/cAkXzHc6gV
— Vincent Lambe (@vincentlambe1) January 6, 2019
The Oscar winners will be announced on Feb. 24.
Where are the killers now?
Due to their age, both child killers were granted new identities after serving eight years as the youngest British murderers of the 20th century. In 2001, they were released under license, which means they can be recalled to jail at any time. Venables, who is now 35 years old, has spent most of his life in and out of prison after being convicted on a string of child pornography charges.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent images of children and one of possessing a pedophile manual. He was sentenced to an additional three years and four months behind bars but is likely starting to run out of chances with the parole board.
Due to the complex nature of the judicial process surrounding the child perpetrators, both individuals and news outlets have been prosecuted for attempting to reveal their secret identities and location of incarceration.
After the Manchester Evening News published the names of the secure institutions where the boys were thought to be detained, it was fined £30,000 for contempt of court and ordered to pay costs of £120,000.
Then, in April 2010, a 19-year-old man from the Isle of Man was issued a three-month suspended prison sentence for claiming in a Facebook message that one of his former colleagues was killer Robert Thompson.