Mom of Murdered Toddler James Bulger 'Disgusted' by Oscar Nom for Film on Son’s Killers

Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered two-year-old James Bulger, is “disgusted” by an Academy Award nomination for a film about the 1993 abduction, torture, and slaying of her son by two ten-year-olds.

January 23, 2019

James Bulger inset, being led away by Thompson and Venables [Getty Images/Staff]

James Bulger inset, being led away by Thompson and Venables [Getty Images/Staff]

By: Mike McPadden

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND — Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered two-year-old James Bulger, says she is “disgusted” by a Best Short Subject Academy Award nomination for Detainment, a 30-minute Irish film about the 1993 abduction, torture, and slaying of her son by two ten-year-olds.

Using the original case transcripts, the movie dramatizes the police interviews with young killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. Detainment also uses actors to recreate the moments when the boys lured James to them and walked him outside a shopping mall to beat, torment, and kill him.

After yesterday’s announcement of the new Academy Award nominations, Denise Fergus stated on Twitter: “I cannot express how disgusted and upset I am at this so called film that has been made and now nominated for an Oscar.”

The grieving mom turned victims’ rights activist added her distress over the film using a child to “reenact the final hours of James’s life before he was brutally murdered,” as well as her anger that the makers of Detainment have never contacted her or other family members.

In an official statement, Detainment director Vincent Lambe responded to Fergus: “As we set out to make a fact-based film that was impartial, we did not attempt to contact any of the families involved and instead relied solely on the factual material. I have enormous sympathy for the Bulger family and I am extremely sorry for any upset the film may have caused them. With hindsight, I am sorry I did not make Mrs. Fergus aware of the film.”

The February 12, 1993 murder of James Bulger horrified humanity. While playing hooky from school at a shopping center, 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables lured the toddler away from his mother, took him by the hand, and walked him outside. From there, the boys sadistically brutalized the two-year-old until fatally crushing his skull with an iron bar. The boys then laid James’s body on a railroad track, where it was severed by a passing train. James Bulger’s remains were discovered two days later.

Thompson and Venables were convicted of murder in November 1993 and sentenced to a minimum of eight years. Upon turning 18 in 2001, both killers were released on lifetime parole. Venables went back to jail for three years in 2010 for violation of his release conditions. He then returned to prison in 2017 for possessing child pornography, and he presently remains incarcerated.

Following the release of Detainment last year, Denise Fergus asked audiences to boycott the film. She also launched an online petition to have it removed from Academy Award consideration. The petition garnered more than 90,000 signatures.

While promoting Detainment, director Lambe said of James Bulger’s family: “I wouldn't expect them to be comfortable with a film which humanizes the boys, but I do hope they understand the reason it was made, and it certainly wasn't to bring any more grief to them. The reason the film was made was to try and offer more of an understanding as to how these two 10-year-old boys could have committed such a horrific crime because I think if we don't understand the cause of it, it's likely that something similar will happen again in the future."

The Motion Picture Academy has not commented yet on the controversy.