Denise Fergus: ‘I’m living the life now that was taken from me when they murdered James’

Denise Fergus is happy. You can hear it in her voice, see it in her eyes and feel it in the easy, loving banter between her and husband Stuart.

Little wonder, given that the pair have just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a renewal of their vows in the same church they got married in, followed afterwards by a big party for family and friends.

It’s more than that, though. After decades of fighting for justice for her son James Bulger, who was led away from her and murdered by two 10-year-old boys in 1993, Denise has reached a level of acceptance about what she and her family have gone through – an experience that shocked the world and one that no parent should ever have to endure.

She tells us: “I am living the life I should have lived all those years ago when I was young; a life that was taken away from me.

“There are so many more positives now, with our three sons and granddaughter; we can sit back and watch them live their lives; get married, have kids. It’s their turn now.

"Life is an enormous learning curve but here we are – just Denise and Stuart. Renewing our vows was a way of marking that.”

As well as being surrounded by a large, loving family, Denise’s newfound sense of peace has also come from writing her recently updated autobiography I Let Him Go.

It was inevitably painful to recall the events that have shaped her life – James was just a few weeks short of his third birthday when he was snatched from her in a shopping centre by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – but it also gave her a chance to bring her little boy fully back into focus.

In her book she admitted that some memories – James’ laugh, his love of chocolate, his smell – had faded and the story of his short life had become overshadowed by that of his murderers and a court case that dominated world headlines.

She still strongly believes the justice system did not treat her son’s killers as the murderers they were because of their age.

But remembering James in a concentrated way for the book helped her reconnect with her boy and find some kind of peace.

And, as her silver wedding anniversary came into view, she knew the time was right to celebrate 25 years of being married to the man she adores and who is “always at her side”.

“Things just clicked into place; the time was right for me emotionally,” says Denise, who has spoken in the book about some of her darkest days – days in which she thought she might not survive her overwhelming grief.

“The years have gone in a flash but so much has happened and we’ve been through so much together. At the time we met I told Stuart that if he took me on he would take a lot of other stuff on as well.

"I told him he had an opportunity to walk away from that; from me. But he didn’t. I don’t think I would have been able to do what I have on my own. He’s the one that keeps me together.”

Stuart is someone with a ready joke and a calm, easy manner. He steers the James Bulger Memorial Trust, set up in memory of James to support young people who are disadvantaged due to a bereavement or being a victim of crime, hatred or bullying – as well as to reward those who have made a positive impact on others or society in general.

And Stuart, 48, clearly adores his wife too. “If you want to see the definition of a fighter, take a look at Denise,” he says. “People see her on the TV as this determined woman fighting for justice, but behind closed doors we get to see her laugh and smile and be a loving mum and wife; we’re the lucky ones.”

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