KILLER Jon Venables was jailed for two years yesterday after he admitted downloading pornographic images of toddlers.
Venables – who along with Robert Thompson battered and murdered two-year-old James Bulger – told officers he had enjoyed the images of abuse and said he was “breaking the last taboo”.
He even adopted an online alter ego as a married mother offering to sell her eight-year-old daughter to a paedophile.
Venables and his friend Thompson were just 10 when they killed James in Bootle, Merseyside, and became national figures of hate in Britain.
They were jailed for life in 1993 and given new identities when they were released on licence in 2001.
Extensive measures were taken to protect the pair from vigilantes and help them lead a normal life but after several years Venables descended into a spiral of cocaine and mephedrone addiction and drunken violence.
The 27-year-old – who still faces death threats – appeared via video link at the Old Bailey yesterday under unprecedented secrecy, with only the judge able to see him.
After 16 years living in the shadows, just four disembodied words were heard from the killer – answering “yes” to his name and pleading “guilty” to three charges concerning child pornography.
One charge related to downloading 57 images – some of the children were as young as two – between February last year and February this year.
A second count related to a technical offence that three images were made available while they were being downloaded in February this year.
The third charge related to distributing images in February 2008 to convicted paedophile Leslie Blanchard, of Chelmsford, Essex.
James’s mother, Denise Fergus, sat impassively in court wearing a “Justice for James” badge as details of the crimes, and Venables’ life since release from jail, were read out. She later condemned his sentence as “simply not enough”.
The court heard that, in September 2008, Venables was arrested on suspicion of affray after a drunken brawl and was given a formal warning by the probation service for breaching the good behaviour terms of his licence.
Later the same year he was cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug, said to be for personal use.
Fergus and her spokesman said yesterday that they were “surprised and concerned” that Venables had not been recalled for breaching his licence. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said there would be a review of his supervision.
It was in February this year that Venables was arrested and recalled over child pornography allegations. Evidence later emerged that he had an “extensive history of searching for and downloading indecent images of children using the internet”.
In February 2008 he was posing as a 35-year-old married woman called Dawn when he was in contact online with paedophile Blanchard. Evidence from a laptop seized from Blanchard showed the two men had used Google Hello to send and receive messages – with Venables using his alter ego.
Louis Mably, prosecuting, said: “Dawn said she was interested in pictures of parents abusing their children.
“Dawn said she and her husband abused their daughter. Blanchard said he would like to meet their daughter and abuse her himself. It appeared that Dawn agreed a price for selling her daughter for a few hours.”
Mably said Blanchard gave a telephone number but Dawn broke off contact abruptly, telling him he would never meet or touch her daughter.
In February this year, Venables contacted his probation officer, fearing that his true identity had been discovered.
The officer arrived at his address and told him to collect his belongings, and he was found trying to delete files from his computer and to remove his hard drive with a tin opener.
Venables was taken to a police station with the machine and it was later examined by officers, said Mably.
He said: “A total of 57 indecent images of children were found.”
Eight of the images were at level four, the second most serious level – featuring sexual activity involving children, the court heard.
Two were at level three, three were at level two, and 44 at level one, the Old Bailey was told.
Sentencing Venables yesterday, Mr Justice Bean said that, as Venables was still on licence for the “horrific” murder of James, he would not be automatically released on serving half his two-year term, and when he was let out would be up to the parole board to decide.
He was also put on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and banned from working with children for life.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved