How murderer’s life spiralled out of control on drink and drugs

JON VENABLES fell into drug addiction and alcohol abuse as his life spiralled out of control several years after he was released from prison.

The child killer was released from prison at the age of 18 in 2001 after serving seven years of a life sentence for the murder of James Bulger.

Extensive efforts were made not only to ensure his security, but to try to give him an “ordinary” life with a new name, job and flat.

He was even trained by police in counter-surveillance as he was told he would have to “live and hold a lie” for the rest of his life or he would be in danger.

Venables began working full-time in a job that involved antisocial hours and earning close to the minimum wage as he forged a new circle of friends.

But things started to go wrong in 2007 as he began to drink heavily and take drugs, including cocaine and recently banned mephedrone.

On September 20, 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of affray over a street fight with another man who claimed he had assaulted his girlfriend.

Both men were charged with a public order offence but this was dropped as prosecutors could not prove he was not acting in self-defence.

Venables was given a formal warning by the Probation Service as he had broken a “good behaviour” clause in his licence.

Three months later, on December 21, Venables was cautioned for possessing cocaine after police saw him handling a small container filled with white powder.

This time, concerned probation workers added a requirement to his licence ordering him to address his alcohol and drug problems.

It was earlier in 2008 that Venables had posed as a mother offering to sell her daughter for sex to another paedophile during three online chats.

He later claimed he did it “for a laugh” and a “hoax” but pleaded guilty to obtaining 42 indecent images of children from a man he never met in Chelmsford.

The Old Bailey heard Venables was driven over the edge because he lived in constant fear of his true identity being revealed.

The child abuse images were discovered after Venables told his probation officer he feared he had been identified and began making hurried preparations to flee his home.

Edward Fitzgerald QC said that by last year his client was addicted to cocaine and “in no sense was he fully in control of his life”.

The barrister said Venables had made “exceptional progress” in prison despite being “vilified and demonised” and his life threatened.

He said: “Once he was released, he lived constantly under the very real threat of reprisals.

“He had to live under an assumed name in wholly abnormal circumstances.”

Venables struggled to make new relationships, particularly with women, as he was ordered to disclose his true name to anyone he became close to.

The court heard Venables “almost welcomed” his arrest over the child abuse images as it gave him “release” from his addiction to drugs.

In a statement released by his solicitor, Venables said he felt like a “canary down a mine” when he was released from prison.

He said he thought about the death of James every day and considered how his life, and the lives of others, could have been different.

Venables apologised to people he befriended since his release who he admitted would be “hurt and angry” when they realised he was “not who he said he was”.

His solicitor said: “The return to prison was something of a relief when it came. He intends to learn lessons to help him face the challenge again.”


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