James Bulger’s mother has opened up about the hidden impact his death had on her other three sons.
Denise Fergus said she often tells Michael, now 27, Thomas, now 22, and Leon, now 21, about the toddler, who was murdered in Merseyside in 1993.
She said watching them speak in new documentary Lost Boy: The Killing of James Bulger left her lost for words.
It comes as the charity set up for him – ForJames.org, the James Bulger Memorial Trust – was down £70,000 due to the pandemic and at risk of shutting down.
Denise Fergus said she often tells Michael (centre left), now 27, Thomas (left), now 22, and Leon (right), now 21, about the toddler, who was murdered in Merseyside in 1993
She said watching them speak in new documentary Lost Boy: The Killing of James Bulger left her lost for words. Pictured: James
Ms Fergus told the Observer: ‘It really did touch me. Seeing my lads – they’ve never spoken like that before.
‘It’s the first time I’ve ever heard them say how they actually felt about James’s death, his murder. It did take me aback quite a bit, hearing how protective they were of me.’
She said she had not realised the emotional impact of the investigation on police officers involved in the case.
She added: ‘When I was in contact with them and seeing them all the time, they were doing a good job of putting a brave face on things.
‘I didn’t know what they were feeling. It was breathtaking to hear – how it really did affect them as well.’
James Bulger was taken by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, both 10, from the Strand shopping centre in Bootle on February 12, 1993, while Ms Fergus was paying.
Thompson and Venables (pictured) were 11 when they faced a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, and were the youngest murder defendants in the UK in over 100 years
Denise said she wouldn’t be alive today had she not fallen pregnant with Michael in those desperate weeks after James’s murder (pictured with James)
His mutilated body was found on railway tracks in Walton, Merseyside, two days later on Valentine’s Day.
He had been tortured, beaten with bricks and iron bars, had paint thrown at him and died from head injuries.
The culprits were 11 when they faced trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, and were the youngest murder defendants in the UK in over 100 years.
They were sentenced to eight years and served seven years eight months, meaning they would not serve time in an adult prison.
They got new identities at the taxpayers’ expense in 2001, and while Venables has been recalled to prison several times, Thompson has not been heard of since.
James’s brothers spoke out about the impact of his death on the family in the new two-part Channel Five documentary.
Leon, 21, admitted the two-year-old’s death brought his family closer, while Michael, 27, said he is going to be ‘more protective’ of his own child.
Leon said he still ‘can’t really fathom’ what happened to the toddler, and does not want to know all the details about it.
Michael Fergus, 27, said he is going to be ‘more protective’ of his own children after recently becoming a father as a result of his brother James Bulger’s death
Proud Denise announced Michael’s daughter Peyton’s arrival on Twitter and Facebook, sharing a photo of her cuddling her ‘beautiful granddaughter’
Speaking in the documentary, Michael said being James’ brother is ‘not a weird thing’.
‘We have always grown up knowing he was there, what he was like, his character. In the household we talk about James a lot,’ he explained.
‘My mum will give us little stories and insights about what he was like. He has always been a character we wanted to know more about, wishing he was there, rather than someone who was in the background all the time.’
Now a father himself after girlfriend Leanne gave birth to their daughter Peyton Kirsty late last year, he added: ‘Becoming a dad, seeing it from my mum’s eyes, it’s going to make me more protective and hold the baby closer than I think anyone could.’
The little girl’s middle name is a nod to his older sister Kirsty, Denise’s first child, who was stillborn in 1989.
Proud Denise announced Peyton’s arrival on Twitter and Facebook, sharing a photo of her cuddling her ‘beautiful granddaughter’.
Denise split from husband Ralph Bulger after Michael was born in December 1993 – 10 months after James’ disappearance.
Despite the united front the couple put on in public in the wake of their son’s murder, Ralph admitted in his book ‘My James’ that he privately, ‘unfairly’ blamed Denise – acknowledging that he was ‘very wrong’ to do so.
Denise met electrician Stuart Fergus when Michael was two and the couple married and had two sons, Thomas, 22, and Leon.
While they were growing up, Leon said his mother would always walk behind them in shops so she could see where they were at all times.
Michael told how he wasn’t allowed to go on school trips or to the shops with his friends as a youngster.
‘The only place I was allowed was either in the front garden or literally outside the gate with my mates, but I would have to be in view of the window, so if I went out of sight, Mum would be straight out,’ he recalled.
‘We are a closer family because of what happened,’ Leon added. ‘We do spend more time together than some other families.’
Michael, who changed his surname to his stepfather’s when he was 13 so it matched his brothers’, previously said he has never felt ‘second best’ to James, telling the Daily Mail in 2013 when he was 19: ‘Mum never made me feel like that. She has never preferred one child over another. We all feel equal.’
He also revealed he had never travelled alone on a bus or train or left Liverpool without a member of his family before reaching adulthood, and admitted he would feel guilty if he came home later than he said he would.
Meanwhile Denise admitted she wouldn’t be alive today had she not fallen pregnant with Michael in those desperate weeks after James’s murder. Her son became her sole reason for living.
‘James was taken in the February and Michael was born that December. I’d just lost a baby and I found myself holding another,’ she said.
‘Michael got me through the darkest days of my life when I didn’t want to live. He gave me the strength to carry on. He wasn’t a replacement baby, because I could never replace James.
‘Michael may have looked like James when he was born, but he was his own person with his own character. Caring for him gave me a big lift. He needed me and I had to be there for him.’
In more devastating news for the family a charity they set up in his name has leaked money over the course of the pandemic.
ForJames.org – the James Bulger Memorial Trust – was down £70,000 in the last year and there are fears it ‘will not survive’ if it continues this year.
The charity organises holidays to lodge in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire for struggling families as well as those who are victims of crimes and the bereaved.
It wrote on its Facebook page that the coronavirus crisis has been a ‘worrying time for the charity’.
Newly-appointed chairwoman Kym Darby said: ‘It breaks my heart to think that the charity has been hit so hard by the pandemic, not being able to hold our fundraising events, the last year the charity is down £70,000.
‘It’s had a massive impact, it’s saddens us to say but if we cannot hold events this year too, we cannot see how the charity will survive .
‘The James Bulger lodge provides so much happiness to families and children in need of a well earned break. Sadly, the costs to keep the lodge have still had to be paid.
‘We know it’s been such a difficult year for everyone, but as Chairwoman of the charity I am calling on you all to help in any small way you can.
‘It would be devastating to Denise Fergus and Stuart Fergus to have to close the charity she set up in memory of her son James.’
She added on Twitter: ‘
- Lost Boy: The Killing of James Bulger, airs on March 10 and 11 at 9pm on Channel 5
James Bulger: How the murder of a toddler shocked the nation
The murder of James Bulger was a vicious crime that shocked Britain.
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both 10 years old on February 12, 1993, when they abducted the two-year-old before brutally torturing and killing him.
The crime made the boys the youngest killers in modern English history.
The duo snatched James from outside a butcher’s shop in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, while his mother popped into a store for just a few seconds.
Two-year-old James Bulger, pictured, was tortured and left for dead in February 1993
He was abducted by 10 year olds Jon Venables, left, and Robert Thompson
James’ mutilated body was found on a railway line in Walton, Liverpool, two days later.
The boys were playing truant from school, and CCTV showed them observing local children at the shopping centre, appearing to be ‘selecting a target’.
They were then captured on camera taking the boy away at 3.42pm, before leading him on a two-and-a-half mile walk through Liverpool to the village of Walton.
Venables and Thompson were seen by 38 people during the walk, and were twice challenged by bystanders because James was crying and had a bump on his forehead.
CCTV footage, pictured, captured the moment Venables and Thompson took James from the shopping centre in Bootle
But they were able to convince the concerned people that James was their little brother and continued on their way.
They led James to a railway line near the disused Walton & Anfield Railway Station where they began torturing him – including throwing paint in his eye, pelting him with stones and bricks and dropping an iron bar on his head.
After the body was found, police launched an appeal showing the low-resolution CCTV images of the boy.
The breakthrough came when one woman recognised Venables, who she knew had skipped school with Thompson on that day, and contacted police.
They were charged with murder on February 20 and forensic tests confirmed they had the same paint on their clothes as was found on James’ body.
The death of James shocked the nation and floral tributes were left in their droves at his funeral, pictured
Around 500 protesters turned out for their initial magistrates’ court hearing due to the public outcry against the crime.
The subsequent trial at Preston Crown Court and the boys were considered to be ‘mature enough’ to know they were doing something ‘seriously wrong’.
Venables and Thompson were found guilty on November 24, 1993, with the judge describing them as ‘cunning and wicked’.
Reporting restrictions on their names were also lifted as it was considered in the public interest to do so.
Their parents were moved to different parts of the country and also received new identities due to death threats against them.