British toddler's killer back in jail

A British man who as a 10-year-old boy abducted and killed a toddler in northern England in 1993 was back behind bars Wednesday for violating the terms of his contentious release.

A British man who as a 10-year-old boy abducted and killed a toddler in northern England in 1993 was back behind bars Wednesday for violating the terms of his contentious release.

The murder has been ingrained into the national memory by video images of the trusting toddler being led to his death.

Jon Venables and a friend were convicted of killing two-year-old James Bulger, a crime that shocked Britain because of the ages of the victim and his baby-faced killers.

Venables, now 27, was released from juvenile detention in 2001, but the Justice Ministry said he had been sent back to jail in recent days.

Officials did not reveal what the violation was, although Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the huge public interest in the case meant more information would be released in the next few weeks.

"At this juncture I can say nothing more than confirm that Jon Venables is back in custody," Johnson told Sky News.

"I believe the public do have a right to know and I believe they will know all the facts in due course. But I must in no way prejudice the future criminal justice proceedings."

Venables will appear before a parole hearing within 28 days to decide if he should be released or stay in jail. The Parole Board said the outcome of the hearing would likely be made public because of the high-profile nature of the case.

Lured boy from mall

Venables and his friend Robert Thompson were 10 when they abducted Bulger from a shopping centre in Liverpool as he waited outside a butcher's shop for his mother. The boys dragged the toddler through town — telling inquiring adults that he was their brother — to a railway line, where they killed him.

A security camera captured images of the toddler being led away by the two older boys, scenes replayed countless times on British television and around the world.

Venables and Thompson were convicted of abduction and murder and sent to secure children's units "at Her Majesty's pleasure" — an indefinite sentence. After a political battle over how long they should serve, they were released in 2001, when they were 18, and given new identities.

Case sparked debate

Since then, a court order has barred the media reporting their new identities or their whereabouts. The case continues to arouse strong feelings. Some say the boys should not have been tried in an adult court — the trial was criticized by the European Court of Human Rights — and have held up their apparently successful rehabilitation as a model of treatment for young offenders.

Other have branded them evil and said they should never have been freed.

Denise Fergus, Bulger's mother, said at the time of their release that she was disgusted with the government. On her Twitter account Tuesday night she wrote: "Would like to let everyone know Jon Venables is were [sic] he belongs tonight[,] behind bars."

Thompson and Venables' parole conditions bar them from contacting one another or the Bulger family, or visiting the Liverpool area without official permission. They can be recalled to custody at any time if officials find evidence that they present a risk to the public.

Criminal justice experts said Venables' parole violation must have been serious or repeated if he was recalled to prison.

"Now this has been publicized, I think there must be a possibility of his new identity being exposed in prison and the inference must be it was a serious breach," criminal lawyer Michael Wolkind said.

"To go to all the trouble of building him a new identity and a new life, there must be a significant chance it was serious."