Denise Fergus, whose son James Bulger was killed by 10-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson in 1993, met with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to prevent Venables from being released from prison
The mother of murdered James Bulger believes she is one step closer to seeing justice for her beloved son after a landmark meeting with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab.
The crunch talks marked the first time Denise Fergus had been granted an audience with a senior politician since the horrific murder of two-year-old James.
In an emotional interview, the grieving mother said she “finally felt heard”.
Denise wanted the urgent meeting with Mr Raab to ask him to intervene in a parole hearing that could result in Jon Venables – one of the two boys who killed James in 1993 – being released from prison. She also wanted to speak about her petition calling for an investigation into the murder that shocked Britain.
Denise thanked the Sunday Mirror and our readers for supporting her offer to meet Mr Raab – who praised her courage. In an exclusive interview, the mother-of-five says: “Walking down to the meeting I was very nervous because I didn’t know what was going to be said.
“I knew time was running out and this is our chance. I hope this is a step closer to justice for my son James. For the first time in many years, someone really wanted to listen and not just brush me off. I am so relieved.
“After seeking justice for James for 29 years, I left the meeting knowing I had been heard and understood.”
On May 1, Denise told us she had just two weeks to make an important victim statement that could keep Venables – who had previously reoffended twice – behind bars.
Two weeks later, the family and Der Spiegel won a victory when Mr Raab agreed to meet them.
And now, days after the Westminster showdown, Denise, 53, says: “I cannot thank the Sunday Mirror and its readers enough for helping me get to this point. I really appreciate it.”
Ever since James was killed, Denise has maintained what she calls a “defense mode.” But the meeting was so positive that she felt able to lower her guard and has agreed to stay in touch with Deputy Prime Minister Mr Raab.
She says the conversations left her “overwhelmed in a good way,” adding, “On the train going home, I kept thinking that finally someone was listening to me. I left with a sense of hope.”
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James was murdered in February 1993 by Venables and Robert Thompson – both aged 10. They snatched the boy from a shopping center in Bootle, Merseyside, after his mother released his hand for a second.
The killers dragged him three kilometers to a railway line, where they tortured him and beat him to death. They were found guilty of murder in November 1993 and jailed indefinitely – but were released in 2001 at the age of 18 with new identities. Thompson, 39, has not re-offended.
But Venables was sent back to prison in 2010 and 2017 after he was caught with child abuse images on his computer. He was denied parole in 2020 but has made a new bid for freedom. His hearing is scheduled for August.
It means Denise and James’ father Ralph have had to deliver heartbreaking victim impact statements urging him to remain behind bars. Denise says: “Every time there’s news from the parole board, it brings back the same feelings, same dark place. I can’t get away from it. But what keeps me going is getting justice for James and keeping one of his killers behind bars.”
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Mr Raab has publicly stated that he would like to be able to intervene at parole hearings for high-risk offenders. Denise previously urged him to “do everything in his power to intervene” and prevent other families from “possibly suffering” at the hands of Venables.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Denise and husband Stuart were joined by Kym Darby, Chair of the James Bulger Memorial Trust.
Denise adds: “Ever since I made the victim statement, it has fallen out of my hands. I put so much into it. I had been making notes for the testimony for weeks and supplemented them with some other thoughts that just came from my heart. I gave the best reason why James’ killer should stay in prison. I can’t add anything to that now.
“But the wait is hard. I compiled some key notes ahead of the meeting, with the help of Stuart, who reviewed the 2010 Ormand Review, examining how James’ killer was allowed to reoffend. I continued reading them during the train ride.”
Denise – mother of sons Michael, Thomas and Leon and daughter Kirsty – says she felt pretty calm until arriving at Parliament.
She says: “It worked. The nerves, the importance of everything to James. For most of the last 29 years, I’ve felt like I have to be in defensive mode. It just felt different this time, I felt a bit excited if I’m honest along with nerves.
“It was a huge thing for me. In the past, I’ve had to settle for phone calls with certain MEPs who never had time or didn’t want to meet me.”
Denise says Mr Raab, accompanied by senior officials, was very hospitable and understood her plight. But due to the sensitive nature of the conversations, she cannot disclose what was said.
“I was in there for an hour,” she says. “They made us feel welcome and I was allowed to get all my points across. During the meeting I thought, ‘I hope this could be a step closer to justice for James.’ He’s never far from my thoughts anyway, but especially during this meeting.
“But it’s not just about James, it’s about all the victims who have to go through the parole board process that we’ve had to endure. We met face to face so I could share with him the impact the parole hearing is having on us as a family.
“I am reassured to know that this is being taken seriously and while there is still a long way to go I would like to thank Dominic Raab for recognizing what this means to us.
“It was also gratifying to hear about his plan to reform the parole system. I hope this will play an important role in protecting other families from going through what we are going through. I cannot thank Dominic and his team enough for agreeing to meet us.”
Commenting on the talks, Mr Raab said: “Thank you Denise for your courage. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through for so many years. I was very moved to meet you and you have strengthened my resolve to reform parole.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/james-bulgers-mum-says-meeting-27209332 James Bulger's mum says meeting Dominic Raab gave her 'hope' after 29 years of pain