independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Venables lawyer recalls 'nightmare'

James Bulger was murdered on February 12 1993

A lawyer has recalled the "living nightmare" of representing one of James Bulger's child murderers, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the toddler's death.

Solicitor Laurence Lee said at first he could not believe the "angelic-looking" Jon Venables could possibly have carried out such a brutal and sadistic killing.

But "the walls came crashing in" soon into his client's police interviews when it became clear that Venables had been lying and that he had in fact carried out the killing with his friend Robert Thompson, also then aged 10. Mr Lee represented the then 10-year-old Venables from the moment he was arrested on February 18, 1993.

Describing his first meeting with Venables, Mr Lee, who now runs his own law firm in Liverpool, said: "He was like an angelic-looking eight-year-old. I thought 'what am I doing here? He couldn't be capable of anything like this'. He was so convincing in his first interview that he had been nowhere near the Strand."

Venables claimed that he had been on County Road, near Goodison Park, with Thompson but said neither of them had been at the shopping centre where the toddler went missing. Mr Lee, 59, said: "And I believed him. He was convincing. And it was only after there was a time-out and the officers who interviewed Thompson had a briefing and came back for the second interview.

"And again I was in blissful ignorance thinking, it's the easiest money - I felt guilty, actually, because this boy had had nothing to do with anything, I thought - until having got him cosy with his little space pens and his can of Coke, they kept him nice and relaxed and they said 'look we've spoken to Robert and he says you were in The Strand'."

After a silence Venables responded: "Well, ok, we were in the Strand but we never grabbed a kid." Mr Lee said: "He got up and he grabbed his mum and he was crying and I thought 'oh my God, what have I let myself in for here?' The walls came crashing in at that moment and I knew what he was like and it was...God it was like a living nightmare."

He said he was "caught up in a maelstrom of massive criminology" and it was something he could not have prepared for. Despite being Venables' defence solicitor he said he would have "happily" prosecuted the case against them and said his heart always went out to the Bulger family.

He said he was shocked that Venables, who was jailed in 2010 for downloading child pornography, had re-offended and that Thompson had managed to stay "under the radar". He added: "Venables couldn't handle being out. He was always looking over his shoulder. They may be at liberty but they will never be free."

Ralph Bulger, James' father, is releasing a new book called My James which will be published ahead of the 20-year anniversary of the murder next Tuesday.

Press Association

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