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Detainment, the British film recreating events around the notorious murder of two-year-old James Bulger, will be allowed to compete at the Oscars, the awards’ organizers say.

James Bulger’s mother, Denise Fergus, had called for the movie to be withdrawn, after it was nominated in the best live action short category.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it takes Denise Fergus’s concerns “very seriously” but maintains a “neutral role” in the voting process.

It said academy members applied their “own judgment” on the film’s merits.

James Bulger was a month short of his third birthday when he was abducted by two 10-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, at the Strand shopping center in Bootle, Merseyside, the UK, in 1993.

Detainment, directed by Vincent Lambe, recreates the police interviews with James’ killers, by using transcripts from the original tapes played in court during their trial.

Denise Fergus had said she was haunted by some of the imagery in the movie and called on the academy to remove it from next month’s ceremony or for Vincent Lambe to withdraw it.

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In statement the academy said it “offers its deepest condolences to Ms. Fergus and her family. We are deeply moved and saddened by the loss that they have endured, and we take their concerns very seriously.”

The statement added: “Following longstanding foundational principles established to maintain the integrity of the awards, the Academy does not in any way influence the voting process.

“Detainment was voted on by Academy members. When making their choices, each individual applies their own judgment regarding the films’ creative, artistic and technical merits.

“We understand that this will not alleviate the pain experienced by the family; however we hope it clarifies the Academy’s neutral role in the voting process.”

An online petition calling on Detainment to be dropped from the Academy Awards in Los Angeles on February 24 has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

However, Vincent Lambe has refused to withdraw his work, saying: “I think it would defeat the purpose of making the film.”

He said he did not mean any disrespect by not consulting Denise Fergus or her family but maintained: “The film was made in the interest of understanding why it happened in order to prevent something similar happening again in the future.”

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were convicted of murder after a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, have since been released from detention and given new identities.


James “Whitey” Bulger has been handed two life sentences plus five years by a court in Boston.

Whitey Bulger, who led Boston’s Winter Hill gang in the ’70s and ’80s, spent 16 years on the run before his 2011 capture in California.

He was convicted last August of 11 murders.

James “Whitey” Bulger, 84, had argued unsuccessfully that he was promised immunity by a now-deceased prosecutor in return for Bulger’s offer of protection from other mobsters.

In sentencing, Judge Denise Casper told Whitey Bulger: “The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable.

“Your crimes are made all the more heinous because they are all about money.”

On Wednesday, family members of some of the victims had a chance to confront him in the courtroom, with one man calling him a “terrorist” and “Satan”.

At one point a courtroom heckler labeled James “Whitey” Bulger a coward after he opted not to testify in his own defense.

James "Whitey" Bulger has been handed two life sentences plus five years

James “Whitey” Bulger has been handed two life sentences plus five years

Over the course of the proceedings, James Bulger’s former associates detailed the methods he used to silence people.

Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi described how Whitey Bulger persuaded him that his girlfriend had to die because she had learned about his dealings with a corrupt FBI agent.

He described how Whitey Bulger strangled her in front of him, and then explained how two other gang members disposed of the body.

Prosecutors called him a “sociopath” and portrayed him as a cold-blooded, hands-on boss who killed anyone he saw as a threat, along with innocent people who happened to get in the way.

But his lawyers tried to soften his image by producing a photo album showing him as an “ordinary” man and insisting that their client was not “immune” to the emotions of the victim’s families.

The FBI also came under criticism from several family members of the victims, who said the organization allowed James Bulger to kill and torture while he worked as an informant on the crime group New England Mafia.

David Wheeler, the son of an Oklahoma businessman killed by a hitman from James Bulger’s gang, called him a “government-sponsored assassin”, but said the “greatest shame of all” fell on the FBI.

But James Bulger’s defence sought to portray the FBI office that led the investigation into his alleged crimes as corrupt, arguing that the witnesses who testified against him were former criminals.

James “Whitey” Bulger was on the FBI’s most wanted list alongside Osama bin Laden.

But it was an FBI agent, John Connolly Jr., who tipped off Whitey Bulger with the plans to capture him.

James “Whitey” Bulger fled in 1994 and was captured in 2011 with his long-time girlfriend Catherine Elizabeth Greig, a dental hygienist who, earlier this year, was sentenced to eight years for harboring a fugitive.

John Connolly Jr. was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder in Florida, for leaking information to Whitey Bulger that led to the slaying of a gambling executive.

James “Whitey” Bulger is said to have been the inspiration for the gangster played by Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film The Departed.

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James “Whitey” Bulger, one of America’s most notorious mob bosses, has been convicted of nearly a dozen murders, racketeering and conspiracy.

James Bulger, 83, terrorized an Irish-Catholic neighborhood of Boston in the 1970s and ’80s as leader of the Winter Hill Gang.

He betrayed no emotion upon hearing the verdict after a two-month trial.

Whitey Bulger went on the run in 1994 and was finally captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.

He was said to have been an inspiration for the gangster played by Jack Nicholson in Oscar-winning 2006 film The Departed.

The trial in Boston heard gruesome evidence that James Bulger had participated in 19 murders, but he was found guilty on Monday of a role in only 11 of them.

Convicted of 31 of the 32 total criminal counts against him, James Bulger faces a life prison sentence. But analysts have pointed out that even a short sentence would likely see the stooped, grey-haired ex-gangster die in prison.

Whitey Bulger refused to testify at the trial, calling the proceedings “a sham” because he said he had been promised immunity by a now-deceased prosecutor in return for protection from other mobsters.

James "Whitey" Bulger has been convicted of nearly a dozen murders, racketeering and conspiracy

James “Whitey” Bulger has been convicted of nearly a dozen murders, racketeering and conspiracy

During the trial, the federal jury of 12 heard testimony from 72 witnesses and saw 840 exhibits

Prosecutors said James Bulger had been a longtime FBI informant protected by corrupt agents, who turned a blind eye to the Winter Hill gang’s activities in return for information on the Italian Mafia.

But his lawyers denied he was an informant, arguing that he paid the FBI for information about investigations.

The defense did not contest James Bulger ran a criminal enterprise, but strongly denied he killed women and that he was “rat” – an informant against others in the criminal underworld.

James Bulger’s victims included anyone he saw as a threat, prosecutors said, including innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“This is not some Robin Hood story about a guy who kept angel dust and heroin out of Southie,” prosecutor Fred Wyshak told the jury in closing arguments, referring to the South Boston neighborhood that was his gang’s turf.

James Bulger’s former associates testified against him, saying he threatened anyone who could expose his crime syndicate, and threatened others with pistols and machine guns to force them to hand over cash.

Among other things, he was accused of strangling two women with his bare hands, shooting two chained men in the head after interrogating them for hours, and opening fire on two men as they left a South Boston restaurant.

Defense lawyers sought to portray the key witnesses, all convicted mob members, as pathological liars who were attempting to pin their own crimes on Bulger.

Another witness, real estate developer Richard Buccheri, said the mob boss threatened to kill him and his family if he did not pay $200,000, sticking a shotgun in Buccheri’s mouth.

“Today is a day many in this city thought would never come,” Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a press conference after the verdict, which she said marked the end of an “ugly” era in Boston’s history.

“Despite the corruption, we stand here today because of the dogged work of honest and dedicated members of law enforcement.”

James “Whitey” Bulger was featured on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list for 16 years until he was found living in California with his girlfriend Catherine Greig.

She was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison for helping James Bulger evade the law.

He fled Boston in 1994 after a retired FBI agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.

His origins in a Boston housing project, his career in the criminal underworld, and his years on the run from the law captivated the city, especially as his younger brother William rose to become president of the state Senate.

James Bulger’s disappearance was a major embarrassment for the FBI, especially after it was alleged in court that he and his gang paid off several FBI agents and state and Boston police officers, offering cash and cases of fine wine in exchange for information on search warrants and wiretaps.

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