So who exactly are these two "wretched and cold" kids who beat a baby to no recognition and left him for dead on a railroad? Their names are Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both age ten (at the time of the murder). Jon and Robert were spending the day "sagging" from school and shoplifting from Bootle Strand when they spotted James standing by himself, eating a pack of Smarties. Either Robert or Jon (I'm thinking it was Robert) had, earlier that day, made the remark: "Let's get this kid lost, let's get him lost outside so when he goes into the road he'll get knocked over." No one knows what provoked the two of them to bear such hostility toward young children. From what the police interviews and court proceedings show, they themselves did not even seem to fully understand what their motives were in killing James. It just "happened," so to speak. But when one looks closely at each of the two boys and his behavioral history, not to mention home life, it can hardly be said that they were stable children.
Robert was born on August 23rd of 1982, to Robert Sr. and Ann Thompson. He grew up the fifth of seven boys who were all under the care of their mother (Robert Sr. left a few years earlier). Ann, herself the daughter of an alcoholic, became one as well and several times attempted suicide. She had to work hard in order to keep up the household on her own, and Robert was mostly left under the "supervision" of his older brothers. It has been agreed upon that, although there is no physical record of any cruel behavior or maltreatment received from his wild older siblings, Robert's experiences with them may have introduced him to callousness. Neighbors and friends described the Thompson family as being "unruly" and troublemaking what with the mild violence and continual school-skipping of all five of the older boys. It certainly wouldn't have been hard for Robert to catch on to the art of sagging, shoplifing, fighting, and other such notorious "Thompson" behavior. During the murder trial and throughout police interviews, Robert proved to be the "cool, collected" one of the duo. He knew his way around questions, and only under very rare circumstances would he allow any remorse he may have felt over James to show itself. His lies were bold and upfront, and any challenges to his word were met with sarcasm and hatefulness. Robert was a bit of a smart-aleck, and he didn't mind showing it. I would venture to say he almost had to be that way growing up with his bullyish brothers. Of course certainly no amount of bad home life is ever a reason for ending the life of an innocent two-year-old; neither should any excuses be made or breaks be cut for Robert. However, it is my belief that his behavior was most definitely learned and served as a coping skill for the ten-year-old to survive in a dysfunctional household without an even remotely connected father there to help guide him through a difficult childhood.
Jon Venables, born August 13th, 1982 (only ten days before Robert), was raised under dramatically different conditions than his comrade was, but nonetheless just as rough in their own right. Jon had two siblings, Mark (age 15 at the time) and Michelle (age 9), both of which ended up in a school for developmentally slow children. The ideas that Jon was jealous over the "special treatment" his brother and sister received, and if he was actually just as mentally challenged as they, have both been considered over and over as a possible reason for his hostile actions. Jon's teachers all tell stories of his horrible temper tantrums, rocking back and forth in his desk and making strange noises to get attention, and the "bullyish" nature he tended to exercise on other children. The prospect has also been brought up on more than one occasion that alot of Jon's actions were due to some videos he may have seen while staying at his father's flat. There were movies on Neil Venables' video history list at Videoscene such as: Child's Play 2 and 3, Halloween, Predator 2, Marked for Murder, Marked for Death, and many others with titles similar. Jon's action of tossing the blue paint in James's eyes could very well have been a mimic of a like incident shown on Child's Play 3. Although his psychological testing displayed no mind-bending effects of these movies on his thinking, it is to be believed that Jon, being possibly developmentally slow anyway, could have been influenced greatly by the things that went on in front of his eyes.
Of course I want to make it clear that I am under no circumstances making any excuses whatsoever for either Jon or Robert. What they did was positively mind-blowing and beyond cruel......and they should be punished for it. However I have been able to see a little of what went on in both of their backgrounds that definitely could have aided in their planning of the cruel act committed against James. I find it to be a real shame and saddening truth that what the boys did must have, in some way, been a method of lashing out for how they themselves had been "killed" mentally and emotionally. It's just horribly unfortunate that the only object they could find to vent their wrath upon was the helpless, two-year-old James Bulger, who lost his life and his future because of it.