If a Bulger killer was hacked, how did Mulcaire get his top secret number?

by Brian Cathcart

The Mirror and the Telegraph are reporting that lawyers acting for one of the killers of James Bulger are planning to sue News International because their client’s phone was hacked.

Both papers dwell at length on the distress of the murder victim’s family at this reported development – and you can see why they feel that way – but both papers also fail to point out the most alarming implication of the story.

Robert Thompson was living under a secret and protected identity when Glenn Mulcaire acquired his mobile number, apparently in 2002. He had been released from detention only months earlier and, after many threats to his life, was one of the handful of people in the whole country most at risk from violent attack.

How did the News of the World penetrate the official security around him? Very few people can have known both his phone number and his real identity, and all of them must have been in positions of trust. The Mirror and the Telegraph don’t seem to be interested in whether one of these people betrayed that trust, or indeed in whether money changed hands.

And there are other questions, which may be more alarming still. If Mulcaire could get through that protective barrier, who else could, was anybody else hacked, and were people placed in danger?

The protection given to Thompson, after all, was similar to the protection sometimes given by the state to threatened witnesses to serious crime, and to people involved in crime who have turned Queen’s evidence. We would surely like to think that the state can guarantee the anonymity and thus the safety of such people, but can it?

There may be many who don’t like to think that Robert Thompson might receive thousands in compensation from News International, but we should ask ourselves who is responsible.

I suspect that the Mirror and the Telegraph would like us to believe that it is a sign of excessive zeal in the investigation of hacking – you can almost hear the words: “It has all gone too far.” But this misses the point, again.

Nobody in 2002 can have been in the slightest doubt that any attempt to breach the secrecy around Thompson was wrong, and equivalent to raising two fingers to the criminal justice system. But, as the Sunday Times was the first to report last year the News of the World went ahead anyway. (This was the same year that it hacked Milly Dowler’s phone.)

If James Bulger’s relatives are angry about the consequence, they should ask which journalist at the News of the World commissioned Mulcaire to do the hacking, because that is the person who is really responsible for their current distress.

Brian Cathcart tweets at @BrianCathcart

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

February 20, 2012 at 6:04 am

Totally agree. Robert Thompson is not responsible for Denise Fergus’ distress this time. And like it or not, as a victim of Mulcaire (and apparently quite a big on since the hacking of his phone went on for some time – an act which could have put his life at risk); he is entitled to seek compensation.

Denise Fergus should be taking her anger out on News International this time.

Val Millerreply
February 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm
– In reply to: Karen

Those two bastards will always be the cause of Denise Bulgers grief and stress. They are owed NOTHING. ‘Do gooders’ do more harm than good.

February 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

Perhaps if people respected the law and allowed Robert Thompson to attempt a life without being followed, hacked and stalked; then he wouldn’t be asking for compensation now.

I’d like to know how much Mrs Fergus has received over the years for interviews with tabloids, TV appearances, etc. Probably a good deal more than Thompson is likely to get.

May 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm
– In reply to: Mark

What Mrs Fergus may – or may not – have got paid, or received as expenses is irrelevant.

What Robert Thompson may – or may not – get as compensation is irrelevant.

Even juxtaposing the two issues is just playing the Sensationalist Press’s game of turning all news stories into some sick soap opera in which we are supposed to take sides.

I always thought that the UK had a legal system in which people convicted of crimes served their sentences and were then free, and if need be protected … has something changed ?

As this article admirably points out, the real issue is newspapers (possibly with the help of corrupt public servants), electing themselves as law-makers, judges and juries.

It may well be that Mrs Fergus will feel only hatred towards the two killers for the remainder of her days, one could hardly blame her if this is true. However neither victims nor newspapers decide the law nor the punishments for crimes – for which thank God say I !

February 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I hope this is brought up in the next bit of the Leveson inquiry (which focuses on the police and the media) because if a police officer or public official sold that information to Mulcaire/NOTW then that person should feel the full force of the law. Even if no money changed hands, if information was handed over, it was in full knowledge they were putting an individual at serious risk. An absolute disgrace.

February 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

So we could add knowingly and intentionally putting an individual’s life at risk to the litany of charges against NOTW? What kind if idiot gave away Thompson’s details? Surely Mulcaire could only have got these from either a police officer or a civil servant?

And if Thompson was hacked, he’ll get compensation. Perhaps Denise Fergus should think about her own relationship with the tabloid press. Perhaps she will start to realise that they never had her interests at heart and always looked on her son’s death as a means of selling copy.

February 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

That is true Mark.

March 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

I agree that Robert Thompson has the right in law to sue News International for the breach of his article 8 rights.

As importantly, perhaps, Thompson also has the right in law to sue those – police officers or other employees of the Crown – who disclosed his private information to the News of the World.

Last but not least, any compensation, or a large part of it, that Thompson receives from a successful action, should go to the family of James Bulger, and/or to charities who look after the victims of crime, and/or to charities who have after-school programs and the like to try to prevent in the first place other kids like Thompson ending up behaving in the appalling way that he did.

March 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm

It is completely up to Thompson what he chooses to do with any compensation he receives. The state cannot make demands on what he should do with it – and neither should it (although I personally think at least some sum should be given to organisations which help children and young people who are in conflict with the law and help their rehabiltiation). This would be compensation for a crime against him by a large corporation for a long period of time.

Denise Fergus already gets plenty of money from the media I am sure – I see absolutely no reason why she should profit from a crime against Thompson.

April 25, 2012 at 3:40 am

I could care less about Robert Thompson’s “rights”. He gave all of that up when he callously murdered a defenceless toddler, despite walking past two police stations where he could easily have handed the child over. He fully intended to murder that child, as did Jon Venables. As far as I am concerned the hacking is merely karma and I personally hope that Glenn Mulcaire is not the only journalist with Robert Thompson’s personal details. I hope that he is exposed and shamed-as he should be. All the compensation in the world won’t change a thing. His cocoon of protection isn’t as secure as he thought it was. I hope that he lies awake at night thinking of it all and wishing that he could turn back the hands of time.

May 20, 2012 at 9:51 am
– In reply to: Jane

All very well Jane but it has ‘eff’ all to do with the issue at hand. You don’t get to choose where the law is applied – it is applied to all. If Thompson had his house burgled, or his car stolen – would you think that OK too because he committed a heinous crime at age 10 (yes – 10 – barely at the age of criminal responsibility and in the vast majority of the world’s countries wouldn’t have even been charged with a crime)?

The people who scream loudly for bigger punishments from criminals and then go on to suggest that criminal activity is OK against certain people are laughable.

Crimes are also committed in prisons. They are still crimes – regardless of who they are committed against. Committing criminal acts against a convicted criminal is regarded no differently under the law – and nor should it be.

Of course Thompson will get compensation. And rightly so.

November 4, 2012 at 3:01 am
– In reply to: Jane


Robert Thompson and John Venables were CHILDREN themselves when they were convicted, for heavens sake!

I wouldn’t be surprised one of those fine examples of humanity we see on TV, running down the street like loons while banging on the sides of prisoner transport vans.

April 27, 2012 at 9:18 am

Thankfully, the law says different Jane. Thompson’s protection under the law is no different from yours or mine and your personal view of people committing criminal acts (not only hacking but breaking injunctions, corruption in public office) against him does not make them less criminal.

It is repugnant that people have this idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ victims. It is even worse that someone could justify serious criminal behaviour merely because a victim is unpopular. Where would that attitude ultimately lead? All your post shows is that you think it perfectly OK to break the law if you don’t like someone.

Like it or not Robert Thompson served his time according to the sentence handed down. You may not think it enough but, frankly, that is tough. Given he is now a citizen and not a prisoner, he is afforded every right you and I expect – including the right to privacy and family life. If these rights are breached by criminal acts, he has the right to go to the courts to seek recompense (along with expecting the criminal justice system to call the lawbreakers to account).

May 21, 2012 at 3:33 am

I agree 100% Jane. Robert Thompson is a killer and he should already have been hung from the gallows. The system gives him more rights than the victim. He will be outed and he will be taken care of, no matter the cost

May 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm
– In reply to: Dave

Hanging ten year olds. How enlightened you are. You think the reaction towards killing a child is to kill another child. Indeed, you would have probably been at Tyburn, jossling for a good spot – taking pleasure in the public execution of a minor. The violent sentiments in your post says a good deal more about you than Thompson. And also indicates just why the injunction was necessary – if that is the general attitude of the ‘justice for James’ crowd, then they deserve to be ignored. If anything, I think YOU are the dangerous one.

May 23, 2012 at 7:57 am
– In reply to: Dave

That’s what we need – 10 year olds swinging from trees. How about putting the noose around a small child’s pre-pubescent neck yourself hey Dave? Bet you’d love to do that wouldn’t you? I’m sure you’d take great pleasure in killing a frightened, confused child who is shaking with fear and you’d laugh as he writhes in agony before breathing his last. Your own children must be so proud.

Jeez, some people really are quite sick.

November 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm
– In reply to: Emma

Yes, some people are very sick & twisted! I agree with you. What worries me is that people forget that RT & JV were children when this happened (probably very messed up children)…but whose fault is that!?…not theirs!…people need to open their eyes and look at the bigger picture here.

August 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Most of comments here are so liberal…I will tell you one thing. If I was a civil servant and knew who/where thompson is I would give away this information for free. Why should such **** be protected? He was not a child. He was a cold blooded sadistic murderer. So was venables. None of them showed real remorse. One of them is now in jail for child porn and the other one is too clever to do something stupid like this.
Go and read again in detail what they did to poor James. Bunch of liberals.
They deserve to live in fear and if somebody finishes them off one day, it is not a big deal.
Do you know why officials ‘sold thompson?’ Because ALL NORMAL PEOPLE HATE THEM. Unfortunately, even if they are stoned to death like little James was, it will never change what had happened to James.

Stephen Strangereply
October 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Thompson should have been jailed until 18 and then hanged. Who gives a crap if his identity has been exposed? He should be dead.

November 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm
– In reply to: Stephen Strange

Absolutely disgusting!

February 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I have deep pity for Denise Fergus, but she seems to thrive on the power she has to invoke very strong feelings and emotions from her sympathisers. She condemns the killers of her son for benefiting from the murder they committed, but she herself uses the media and has probably made more money from interviews, magazine covers, etc . I do not blame her for the hatred in her heart, but she is not humble, and comes across as a bit hypocritical. I really wish she would just leave it all alone and not cry out for justice all the time. It sounds more and more like vengeance to me.

February 12, 2013 at 5:48 am

These two children, who served a few years in a secure boarding school for the following acts: picking up a 2 year old high in the air and slamming him onto the floor; punching a two year old in the face, kicking a two year old, throwing bricks at a two year old, at his face and head; pulling the child trousers down and sexually abusing a two year old by pushing batteries up is bottom; Venables and Thompson admitted that Jamie Bulger said ‘I want my mummy’ during this attack; these two then throw blue paint over the two year old and beat him to death with iron bars.
You people live on a different planet to me if you think these two killers have been punished, and if you think they should be entitled to any protection under law. As for compensation…your a joke.

Lets hope they apply for it And their identity is leaked.

Then the father of the murdered child can end this sorry mess.

February 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

@Matt ” in the vast majority of the world’s countries wouldn’t have even been charged with a crime”
Thank God we live in Britain, a society of law and order that protects victims and punishes criminals.

November 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm
– In reply to: Mike

So agree with you!..some peoples views on here are astonishing

March 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Shocking responses from some left wing, euro loving armchair critics. He deserves no rights at all. End of

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