British toddler's killers granted parole

Two teens, convicted of savage murder of two-year-old James Bulger at the age of10, will be given new identities

Two British teenagers who in 1993 lured a two-year-old boy away from his mother and savagely killed him will be released, the British government announced Friday.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, now 18 years old, were convicted of the February 1993 abduction and murder of toddler James Bulger.

The teens will be paroled after serving their sentence of a minimum of eight years, Home Secretary David Blunkett told the British Parliament. "The parole board has decided that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that they be confined," Blunkett said.

But the government does feel that the teens need protection from the public. Both Venables and Thompson will be given new identities and will be released at secret locations.

But the decision has infuriated the parents of the slain toddler. Denise Fergus, Bulger's mother, expressed her anger at the government and the Parole Board.

Ralph Bulger, James' father, said in a statement that he felt "angry, frustrated and completely let down by the system."

The murder, which Venables and Thompson committed when they were 10 years old, stunned the British nation.

A video camera captured an image of the older boys leading Bulger away from where his mother was buying meat at a shopping centre in Bootle, near Liverpool.

The boys took Bulger to a railway line three kilometres away, where they hit him with bricks and metal bars, poured paint in his eyes and eventually left him on the track, where the toddler's body was cut in half by a train.

After their 16-day trial, their sentence was increased to 15 years, but another judge later restored the old sentence, saying that it wouldn't be beneficial for the youths to be in the "corrosive atmosphere of an adult prison."

Venables and Thompson have served their time at a special childrens' corrections unit. Venables' lawyer said his client is "truly remorseful."

This week, they appeared before separate, secret parole panels including a judge, a psychiatrist and an independent board member.

As a condition of their release, they cannot contact each other or any member of James Bulger's family. They cannot visit the Liverpool area without special permission, and they will be returned to custody if they show any signs of being a danger to society.