After James’ murder emotions among the Liverpool community are running high. On the bank, close to where his body has been found, hundreds of flowers are being placed. Among them is a bunch of flowers put there by one of James’ murderers.The only leads the police have to go on are the grainy images from the Strand revealing James’ abduction. Keeping an open mind, the police want to track down the two youths seen leading him out of the shopping centre. The problem for the police is they need a way to improve the CCTV footage in order to work out the ages of the two teenagers. The Ministry of Defence agrees to help.With the public’s support in trying to catch the killer, the one thing the police aren’t short of is information. On Tuesday 16 February they arrest a young boy. It’s breaking news. However, neighbours who have seen the police arrive, jump to the wrong conclusion. Believing he’s guilty, a near riot ensues. The level of anger that someone could commit such a brutal and savage murder has incensed the Liverpool community. As soon as the innocent boy and his family are ruled out of the enquiry they’re forced to move house.A woman sees the grainy images from the Strand and recognises the two individuals as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. They are known troublemakers and a quick check of the school register proves they were playing truant the day James Bulger went missing.
Thursday 18 February 1993
The police act on this information and plain clothes policemen in unmarked cars are sent to arrest them. Robert Thompson is 10 years old and lives in Walton with his mother and two younger brothers. His four older brothers have all been taken into care. When the police arrive they realise his house isn’t far from the murder scene.Jon Venables is also 10. His parents divorced when he was three-years-old and together they share joint custody of him and his two siblings. When he appears at the top of the stairs, the police are astounded by his young age and small stature. The police are certain that the boys they’ve just arrested aren’t who they’re looking for. They strongly believe the children are just not capable of such a crime.This belief is shared by Detective Superintendent Albert Kirby who’s in charge of the investigation. He dismisses the boys as murderers but still wants to question them. Kirby believes they are looking for teenagers. So in a desperate bid for more information he asks Crimewatch to help. The programme is to be broadcast on Thursday 18 February. For the first time in the programme’s history an appeal is to be launched in the same week the murder has been committed. During the broadcast police release newer and better enhanced images of the two boys hoping that someone will be able to identify the two individuals.What the police fail to realise is the two suspects they’re searching for are already in their custody.