Seeing the pain in his mother’s eyes has made the brother of James Bulger more protective of his own children, he has said.
Michael Fergus, 27, has spoken of how his family’s tragic experience has shaped his and his family’s life.
It was over 28 years ago that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson abducted little James from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside after he briefly let go of his mum’s hand, the Liverpool Echo reports.
The 10-year-old boys were then captured in CCTV leading the youngster by his hand away from the shopping centre before brutally torturing and murdering the tot and leaving his body by a railway line.
The killing sent shockwaves around the world, as Venables and Thompson became the youngest convicted murders in modern British history.
Michael, who was born nine months after James’s killing, changed his surname to his stepfather’s when he was 13, recently had his first child, Payton, with partner Leanne McPadden.
Having made his mum Denise Fergus a proud grandmother, Michael says he can now understand why she was so protective of him as well as James’s half-brothers Thomas, 22, and Leon, 21.
He told Australia’s Sixty Minutes on Sunday: “It’s not a weird feeling being James’s brother.
“We always knew who he was, what he was like and his character. We talk about him as if he were there. We don’t pretend he’s with us but we talk about him a lot.
“He’s always been a character we’ve wanted to know more about, and wishing he was here instead of someone who was just in the background.
“Becoming a dad, seeing it (the pain) in my mum’s eyes, it’s made me more protective and hold the baby closer than anyone could.
“As a kid I wanted to do this and that but now I understand why she was like that.”
The impact of the murder was also felt many years later by Thomas, who said that his mother’s habit of texting every few minutes made nights out with friends in Liverpool difficult.
“She didn’t want us to go out anywhere,” he said.
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“James was always in the back of her head every day. She knew it could have happened again (to another child).
“She would text me every five minutes when I went out with my mates into town so I couldn’t really enjoy myself!”
Leon is also haunted by James’s horrific abduction and murder, and still finds it unsettling to see his brother on the television.
Leon said: “It still is weird seeing James on the news.
“We shouldn’t be seeing on the news about a kid being murdered, he should be sat next to us.
“When we were growing up, if we were walking in the shops mum would always walk behind to watch us so she could see in front of us, and she wanted to know where we were all the time.
“James is always there with us and we are always there for him.”
Denise split from Ralph, James’s father, in 1994 and married electrician Stuart Fergus four years later.
James’s mum told the show: “I never thought I would be standing (at James’s grave) with a new family looking over the son that I lost.
“When I first met Stuart, he never knew I was James’s mum but when the wall came down, I couldn’t have met a better man.
“He’s pulled me through so much. The day I married Stuart, Thomas was three years old and we had Michael and it was such a lovely day and that day I couldn’t stop smiling because my family was growing again.”
Denise remains angry with the British legal system for not sending Venables and Thompson to an adult prison.
They were both released from a young offenders’ institution with new identities under licence in June 2001 after they turned 18.
She said: “I was pleased when the judge said they would both serve ‘very many years’ for murder but eight years was a kick in the teeth and stab in the back.
“It was as if James’s life didn’t mean anything. They should have gone to an adult prison.
“I know they both came from difficult backgrounds but there are many children from difficult backgrounds who don’t do what they did. They took my world away from me.”