Twenty-seven years after the murder of two-year-old James Bulger, the mention of his murderers’ names still provokes hatred and vitriol in a large section of society. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were just ten years old when they committed their terrible crime, a fact which undoubtably added to the horror expressed by people as they struggled to come to terms with this most baffling phenomenon – children who kill. The Press brandished the pair ‘monsters’, and ‘evil’, but the psychological wellness, or otherwise, of these two young boys was left virtually unexamined at the time, and the question of ‘why?’ went unasked, and unanswered. Is it possible that abuse or neglect in their own lives could have played some part in altering normal development in these young minds, and could this have rendered them more likely to commit such a dreadful act?
Recently I saw a photograph of my best friend’s wedding day, happily displayed on Facebook in celebration of her 19th wedding anniversary. I remember the wedding day very fondly, and clicked a ‘like’ on the photograph, wrote a comment to my friend, congratulating her and her husband, and sending my love to them all, with a big, happy exclamation mark at the end. The day the photograph was taken, 19 years ago, I too was a young newlywed, having married my first husband not quite three months earlier. My happiness towards my friends on the celebration of their anniversary was honest and genuine – they are wonderful people, and I feel fortunate to be able to call them friends - but I have to admit, I was left with a strange, initially unidentified feeling for the rest of the day. My stomach felt knotted, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was causing it. That evening, my husband was out, and my daughter had gone to bed, and I gave myself some time to consider the strange, heavy feeling that had afflicted me all day, and I found I could identify its root. My own first marriage, begun in the same year as my best friend’s 18-year success story, sadly ended after 10 years, and it was my prickling feelings of failure that were causing the grey mood I had been experiencing all day.