Monday, August 9, 2010
Do you think British taxpayers should have to pay nearly $400,000 to hide the identity of someone who, as a child, committed one of the most horrendous crimes in modern British history? Do you support the government giving this notorious baby-killer another chance? And just how long do you think he should be protected?
In February 1993, British toddler Jamie Bulger (left) was abducted during a Friday trip to a Merseyside shopping mall after briefly straying from his mother. By the next day, police were scrutinizing fuzzy mall surveillance camera footage in utter disbelief. Two-year-old Jamie, in his blue anorak, was being led away not by a hardened pedophile but by two youths. Holding one’s hand, Jamie cheerfully toddled off, away from his mother forever.
His abductors, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, betrayed his innocent trust in the most ghastly way imaginable. Truants and practiced shoplifters, they dipped in and out of shops and walked two miles with Jamie. At a local canal, they dropped him on his head, leaving him bruised and crying. Further on, at some isolated railway tracks, they unleashed unimaginable violence, beating Jamie with bricks and an iron bar. They also removed his sneakers, socks, trousers and underpants. Forensics experts suspected sexual assault based on suspicious injuries.
Before leaving Jamie for dead, they covered his bleeding head with bricks, then lay his body across the tracks, knowing a train would come. Back home, Jon and Robert were just kids in hot water for playing hooky.
Jon Venables was labeled the “follower,” yet two years earlier, he had pinned a boy with a ruler against his throat until two teachers pulled him off.
Sunday brought a gruesome discovery. Jamie’s upper body was on the tracks; his naked lower half lay nearby. His little face bore a shoe print (later linked to Robert’s shoe.) Jamie survived the initial attack, police say, but mercifully died on the tracks before the train hit him.
Later, Robert Thompson took a single rose and joined mourners at the crime scene.
Police descended on the boys’ homes following a tip. They questioned them but never really suspected them. Jamie’s killers, they assumed, must be 13 or 14 years old at minimum. But there was blood on their shoes, and soon the dreadful truth was inescapable.
Jon Venables (at the time of the murder, booking photo below left) and Robert Thompson, both 10 years old, became the youngest people charged with murder in England and Wales in the 20th century.
They’d talked about pushing the infant into the water, but obviously one or both wanted something more sadistic and personal. We still don’t know why they did it, but Jon was bullied, reportedly cut himself with scissors, and envied the attention given his two special needs siblings.
The killing’s sexual element couldn’t be denied, but Jon and Robert were little kids. However, that November, they were tried as adults. In Britain, 10 is the age of criminal responsibility. Sentenced to at least eight years, their release would hinge upon rehabilitation and no longer being a danger to society.
In June 2001, they were freed with new identities, new birth certificates, new secret residences and, spy-like, new back stories, witness protection program-type scenarios usually reserved for mobsters.
Many Britons were out for blood; Jon and Robert had to be protected. They were, essentially, on lifetime probation and could be yanked back into custody immediately if ever they broke its rules.
Thompson stayed under the radar, but in 2008, Jon Venables was in a drunken scuffle and caught carrying a little cocaine. Reportedly, probation officers knew Jon had a drug and drinking problem, and they let him be.
Then Venables adopted a disturbing online persona: “Dawn,” a pedophile mother willing to pimp out her young daughter. As Dawn, Jon lured pedophiles into sending him hardcore child pornography. He was busted when, fearing his secret identity had been blown and ready to flee, he gave police his computer for safekeeping. He’d tried removing the hard drive, which aroused suspicions.
Police found shocking images; videos of an eight-year-old girl being raped, and pictures of children as young as two being raped by an adult. Jon Venables’ viewing choices are a frightening window into his perverted fantasies.
Rehabilitation was the dream, but in no universe has he been rehabilitated. And so we face a painful truth. Fresh starts can’t always change the toxic mental brew that leads children to kill. They couldn’t erase Venables’ deep-seated problems or recast his warped sexuality. As children, Jon and Robert were anomalies, treated with kid gloves by the system. But Venables’ monstrous act was 17 years ago. He is no longer 10. He’s a man of 27.
Jon’s defenders say living a lie proved too much psychologically. He couldn’t have a girlfriend and feared being alone forever. But most men without girlfriends don’t covet or collect child pornography. He has shown us what excites him, and it is hugely dangerous.
Venables told police he saw downloading the images as “breaking the last taboo.” No. That was the torture murder of Jamie Bulger.
Venables received a two-year sentence for downloading and distributing the pornography, but could be freed in a year. Reportedly he is letting slip who he really is, so authorities are discussing another new identity, at a reported cost of 250,000 pounds (US $398,323) to taxpayers.
One new identity and one fresh start is plenty. All coddling should have gone out the window the minute he re-offended. Brits now need to know who he is, and where he is, and the powers-that-be now must protect those he is most likely to prey upon. Jamie Bulger’s memory deserves that much.
Today downloading child porn; tomorrow acting out? Maybe. But who is willing to take a chance on Venables? Rehabilitation is difficult, if not impossible, for hard-core sex offenders. Their sick sexual fantasies can be managed with enough will and medication, perhaps, but not erased. Jon’s redemption would have been saying “no” instead of “yes” to his dark impulses. It didn’t happen. This baby killer’s rights should never again overshadow the rights of our children. Venables is a time bomb. No good will come of burying the truth a second time, no matter how ugly.
So, just how much money, time or effort do you think should be spent on giving Jon Venables a second new identity? Let us hear from you on this issue.