James Bulger murder: 'I will never forget mother's scream'

Albert Kirby Albert Kirby has lived with the James Bulger case for the last 20 years

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The man who brought the 10-year-old killers of James Bulger to justice says he will never forget the moment the toddler's mother realised her son was dead.

Det Ch Supt Albert Kirby met James's mother Denise as she walked with a family liaison officer in the car park at Marsh Lane Police Station in Bootle.

"I just walked toward Denise and she must have realised the worst and she just let out this blood-curdling scream," said Mr Kirby, who had just returned to the station from the murder scene.

Two-year-old James was killed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson after being snatched by them from a shopping centre in Bootle on 12 February 1993.

Mr Kirby, who led the inquiry into James's murder, has lived with the crime for the past 20 years.

"I will always be known as the man who dealt with the James Bulger inquiry," he said.

As an incredulous nation tried to comprehend the brutal child-on-child murder Mr Kirby felt "the tremendous responsibility under the glare of the media and public and also all the emotional issues which came out, as well as having to deal with my own staff who were as emotionally touched by it as anybody else".

'Difficult to believe'

He said: "I think it affected us all. We knew quite quickly that James had been taken from his mother by two boys but didn't realise how young they were.

Child killers

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were convicted of killing two-year-old James Bulger in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993.

Thompson, who was released in 2001 after eight years in detention, was given a new secret identity and address.

Venables was also released on licence in 2001 after serving his sentence but was jailed for two years in July 2010 after admitting downloading and distributing indecent images of children.

He has been refused parole.

"When we went to the murder scene we found it difficult to equate what had happened at the scene with the action of two young boys who were then 10 years of age."

Mr Kirby said it was not the most difficult crime he had to solve as a detective but added: "With James the other issues made it very very difficult - the public expectations and the emotional side of it."

Mr Kirby said at first police thought James was lost after the two boys had taken him from The Strand Shopping Centre, in Bootle.

Yet once continuing sightings placed him further and further away from The Strand, he said "we had to readjust our thinking and think 'blimey there's going to be a strong possibility that they have done the murder'".

James Bulger James Bulger's body was found two days after he was snatched

Mr Kirby said the only reaction of he and his team at the end of the trial was a sense of relief.

"Normally with detectives at the end of any inquiry you would have some form of celebration, a few pints. That never happened.

"It was coming up to Christmas and we were just glad we could enjoy the Christmas holidays."

Twenty years on Mr Kirby said he feels no upset at recalling the inquiry.

"It has stayed with me but I don't look upon that as a downside. I was a professional detective and I did my job - that is what was expected of me," he said.

'Why kill James?'

"In the years that followed, you've always had the issues. Did Robert Thompson and Jon Venables do long enough?

"Should they be out? What happened with Venables? We are still dealing with them 20 years on.

"James's murder highlighted to all commentators and observers that children were capable of doing some very evil and violent things.

"The question is always why? Even now I don't know why they did it.

"Sadly we were able to show on that day they set out to murder - they tried to take another boy a couple of hours earlier who they were going to shove under a bus outside the shopping precinct.

"I don't know anyone who has heard what their explanation is.

"It fascinates people because we all think of our own children."

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