The father of British toddler James Bulger, whose murder at the hands of two 10-year-old boys 20 years ago shocked the world, has spoken extensively for the first time about the tragedy - describing his son's killers as "evil beyond belief".
In an extract from his new book, published in Britain's Daily Mail, Ralph Bulger said that there were times he contemplated suicide and blamed his wife Denise for the death of James, whose murder made global headlines both because of the shocking nature of the crime and the age of his killers.
The case also made news in WA in 2006 when police were forced to deny rumours the man who murdered eight-year-old Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu in a Canning Vale toilet block was one of James' killers, relocated to Perth under a new identity.
Mr Bulger said the "biggest single regret" of his life was not taking James to work with him on February 12, 1993 - the day the two-year-old was abducted from a shopping centre near Liverpool.
The moment he learnt his son was missing was "as if someone had just punched the living daylights out of me".
"Everyone in the police station was on high alert," he said. "I was led into an interview room where an officer said, 'Ralph, it's vital we get as much information as we can'.
"There was no doubt about it, they were taking statements from me and Denise to establish if we might have been behind James' disappearance.
"I knew this would be standard practice but I found the line of questioning harsh and unsettling.
"I started praying in my head, 'Please, God, please bring James back to us and I swear I will do anything in return'."
James was abducted, tortured and killed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. They threw paint in James' eyes, kicked him, threw bricks at him and placed batteries in his mouth before leaving him on a railway track in an attempt to make his death look an accident.
Venables and Thompson served eight years in prison for the murder before being freed and given new identities.
Venables' parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison in 2010 for downloading and distributing indecent images of children.
Mr Bulger said his initial feeling when police recovered CCTV footage of two young boys walking with James was relief because he thought it could be a prank.
That relief quickly turned to despair when James' body was found.
"I walked into a toilet cubicle and felt a rush of nausea," Mr Bulger said. "My stomach was in agonising spasms and my limbs turned to jelly. I began retching but nothing came up. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror I saw a stranger. My eyes looked like they were going to pop out of my head, blazing with anger and bloodshot from tears and rage. But most of all I could see shame and disgust. I hated myself because my son was dead. I had failed to protect my own flesh and blood.
"When we got back to Marsh Lane police station, I just let rip. 'Where's my son?' I screamed. 'I wanna see my James now. What the f have they done to him? I'm gonna kill the b.......'
"The next thing I remember I was punching the walls and I was just kicking and screaming before I collapsed and wailed like a baby.
"There is no question that I considered killing myself. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was the thought that I would be letting James down once again."
He said there were times he blamed his wife, who was with James at the shopping centre and let go of his hand "for a second".
"I was wrong. It was just part of my raging grief," he said.
Two decades on, Mr Bulger's anger towards his son's killers does not appear to have faded. "Thompson and Venables had plenty of opportunities to walk away from him, to let him live," he said.
"But they never once showed an ounce of compassion for him or any feeling for a little boy whose life had barely started."Their only concern was to cover up their crime and their only regret was that they got caught. It may oversimplify the arguments but that to my mind makes them evil beyond belief."
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