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NewStatesman

Friday, 12th February, Two outwardly unremarkable ten-year-old boys began the day by playing truant and ended it running an errand for the local video shop. In between they abducted and killed a two-year-old boy, James Bulger.

In search of an explanation, award-winning journalist David James Smith looks behind the misinformation, misunderstanding and sensational reporting to an exact account of the events of that day. A sensitive and definitive account, The Sleep of Reason achieves a unique understanding of the James Bulger case, and comes as close as may ever be possible to explaining how two ten-year-olds could kill.

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Let the circus begin

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Not Available. In between they abducted a two year old child and killed him on the railway line. Now the world has heard the identities of the two ten year olds who were convicted of murdering James Bulger. But, distorted and obscured by the frenzy of publicity that followed their trial, Jon Venables and Bobby Thompson remain an unknown presence at the heart of the case.

The Sleep of Reason by David James Smith | Waterstones

The Sleep Of Reason peels away the outer layers of the story in search of an explanation. It looks behind the misinformation, misunderstanding and sensational reporting to give an honest and exact account of the events that surrounded the killing of James Bulger.


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The boys are gradually pulled into focus, through a detailed recreation of their day on February 12, the extraordinary series of interviews that followed their arrests and the background to their troubled lives at school and at home. Here are two ten year olds with unbroken voices.

The James Bulger Case

One collects troll dolls, the other is preoccupied with computer games. One is chubby, with cropped hair, the other wiry, hair styled in a wedge. To all appearances they are unremarkable children. By this means The Sleep Of Reason achieves a unique understanding of the James Bulger case, and comes as close as may ever be possible to explaining how two ten year olds could kill.