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Memories of shock and horror

Courtroom sketch
Thompson and Venables in court during their 1993 trial  

By CNN's Mark Davies

LONDON, England (CNN) -- For a young journalist seeking somewhere to work where there would always be a wealth of strong stories, Liverpool was always going to be a good bet.

I'd lived in the city in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, which saw 96 Liverpool football fans crushed to death at a match, and felt honoured to be part of a community that came together with such strength out of such adversity.

I'd seen the way the Liverpool Echo, the main local newspaper, had been a part of that process of sorrow and remembrance, and I wanted to be a part of it.

While some of the UK's national newspapers had offended Liverpudlians with ill-founded and ultimately false claims about the behaviour of some supporters at the Hillsborough stadium that fateful day, the Echo reported events with dignity and sensitivity.

bush The James Bulger Case
  • Case overview
  • Killers' new lives
  • Internet threat
  • Memories of horror
  • Killers and victims
  • Blunkett statement
  • Timeline of events
  From TIME
  • Killer boys grow up
  • Photo essay

  Court rulings
  • 1997: House of Lords
  • 1999: European Court
  • 2000: Lord Chief Justice

  Related sites
  • Justice for James
  • UK Parole Board

  News archive
  • Pleas for restraint
  • Press breach probed
  • Reformers welcome move
  • Parents' fury at release
  • Freedom for killers
  • Killers face hurdle
  • Anger at decision
  • Sentence review due
  • European court ruling


So it was that in 1992 I was a reporter on the Echo when a story broke which would shake the world as much as the Hillsborough tragedy had done.

Like all big news stories, the details of James Bulger's death came in dribs and drabs, and with every new fact it became more and more clear that something of truly horrific proportions had happened.

So much so, indeed, that it seemed quite unbelievable. They were dark days indeed.

Off-the-record briefings from police officers about the details of the crime, relayed by reporters at the scene, were surely the exaggerations of an over-zealous correspondent, we hoped.

But as it became clear that the apparently unbelievable details were true, Liverpool was in a state of shock.

Just as in the days following the Hillsborough tragedy, it seemed the whole city stopped as it tried to take in the horror of the crime.

Piles of flowers gathered near the spot where James died. People stood and stared at the floral tributes, barely able to contain their emotions.

I was the newspaper's political correspondent at the time, and within days of James' death, John Major, then prime minister, was expressing his sadness at the death.

Crime scene
The scene of James Bulger's death  

In Liverpool, there was intense sorrow and then, as the days went by, anger. For some, as the boys who were subsequently convicted for James' death were arrested, there was rage, and crowds of people gathered at police stations with vengeance in their minds.

Soon, the murder of James Bulger had become engrained in the city's history. Barely a week goes by without a story about his parents or the boys who killed him hitting the headlines in the local papers.

The most widely used photograph of James, his angelic face smiling from beneath the headlines, is now so familiar it is engrained in the mind.

And as the intense interest in the release of James' killers spreads around the world, in Liverpool the feelings which spread through the city in the week following his death remain the same -- deep sadness and not a little anger.

• UK Parole Board
• Liverpool Echo

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