James Bulger: The Trial


The story of the 1993 murder trial of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, the two ten-year-old killers of toddler, James Bulger – a trial that shook the world. 

Using transcripts from the trial, first-hand testimony of those who were in the court room, and reconstruction of key moments in court, this feature-length documentary reveals the prosecution’s strategy to prove that both boys were as guilty as each other. Venables and Thompson were defended by separate teams, and using a ‘cut-throat’ defence strategy, they blamed each other for the abduction and the toddler’s brutal murder if young James Bulger. 

The documentary starts on day one of the trial which took place almost 30 years ago and follows the action through to sentencing. This is the James Bulger case told from a brand-new perspective, a fresh take on a famous case, compellingly and forensically unravelled in the courtroom, an arena full of excitement and suspense, and drama that is as gripping as a novel or a play. 

The documentary features contributions from the prosecution and defence teams, journalists, Blake Morrison and David James Smith, who attended the entire trial, and the mother of James Bulger, Denise Fergus. There’s exclusive testimony from the forensic scientist Philip Rydeard, who was responsible for proving that Thompson kicked Bulger in the final attack, and foreman of the jury, Alan Barry, who delivered the verdicts. 

Though society had already found the boys guilty, trials are about evidence, and the prosecution had to prove this was a joint enterprise murder and that both boys understood what had happened was seriously wrong. Could either Venables or Thompson convince the jury that they played little part in this horrific crime, and that other boy was guilty?

Production Info

Duration: 86mins

Year of Production: 2023

Broadcaster: Channel 5