'Jon Venables was angelic looking; Robert Thompson was pied piper': Lawyer for Jamie Bulger's killer speaks out for first time
The lawyer to Jamie Bulger's killer Jon Venables has spoken for the first time about the murder that shocked the nation, 20 years ago this month.
Laurence Lee said at first he could not believe the 'angelic-looking' 10-year-old Venables could possibly have carried out the brutal and sadistic killing of toddler James.
But he said 'the walls came crashing in' soon into his client's police interviews when it became clear that Venables had been lying and that he had in fact carried out the killing with his friend Robert Thompson, also then aged 10.
Mr Lee had represented Venables from the moment his client was arrested by police on February 18, 1993.
Describing his first meeting with Venables, Mr Lee said: "He was like an angelic-looking eight-year-old. I thought 'what am I doing here? He couldn't be capable of anything like this'.
"He was so convincing in his first interview... that he had been nowhere near the Strand."
Venables claimed that he had been on County Road, near Goodison Park, with Thompson but said neither of them had been at the shopping centre where the toddler went missing.
Mr Lee, 59, said: "And I believed him. He was convincing. And it was only after there was a time-out and the officers who interviewed Thompson had a briefing and came back for the second interview.
"And again I was in blissful ignorance thinking, it's the easiest money - I felt guilty, actually, because this boy had had nothing to do with anything, I thought - until having got him cosy with his little space pens and his can of Coke, they kept him nice and relaxed and they said 'look we've spoken to Robert and he says you were in The Strand'."
After a silence Venables responded: "Well, OK, we were in the Strand but we never grabbed a kid."
Mr Lee said: "He got up and he grabbed his mum and he was crying and I thought 'oh my God, what have I let myself in for here?'
"The walls came crashing in at that moment and I knew what he was like and it was...God it was like a living nightmare."
He said he was 'caught up in a maelstrom of massive criminology' and it was something he could not have prepared for.
"It was the kind of case that no solicitor had ever dealt with. I was in my 30s and I had never dealt with anything like this before."
The lawyer said one of the hardest parts of the case was looking after Venables' parents who he described as 'very respectable people who were going through a nightmare'.
"They were good people. Lovely people. They didn't have a clue what was happening", he said.
Mr Lee said as far as Venables was concerned his background was 'no worse than any kid in Liverpool' and at the time he had actually been given a responsibility by his schoolteacher.
He said: "He was on his way to pick up the gerbils from the school and it was only because he bumped into Thompson who said, 'forget the gerbils, lets go robbin'."
He added: "Thompson had this kind of hold. He was like the Pied Piper."
Venables claimed that he was an unwilling participant in the attack. But Mr Lee said the 'terrible injuries suffered by that poor child could not have been carried out by just one of them'.
He said he was shocked that Venables, who was jailed in 2010 for downloading child pornography, had re-offended and that Thompson had managed to stay 'under the radar'.
He added: "Venables couldn't handle being out. He was always looking over his shoulder.
"They may be at liberty but they will never be free. And Venables may have had his liberty but he was never free; couldn't handle it and I think it was almost a cry for help from him to get remanded back into custody."
Mr Lee, who has not seen Venables since 1994, said he 'does not want to know' Venables. He said the Bulger case was a life changing event for him, which he said made him ill for some time after the trial.
He added: "We are all human beings and everybody was affected by it. Nobody with any heart could have failed to have been affected by that case."
Venables, now 30, spent eight years in custody before release and lived under a false name before being arrested over the child abuse images. He was jailed for two years and refused parole in 2011. He recently re-applied to be let out.
Mr Lee said: "I was amazed. Particularly, I thought the timing was awful just weeks before the 20th anniversary."