Denise Fergus, the mother of James Bulger, expressed her anger towards a disturbing AI-generated TikTok videos featuring her deceased son discussing his murder. She labelled these videos as “disgusting” and deeply hurtful to her family, adding that they bring back the unimaginable heartache they have endured since James’ tragic death in 1993.
Two year old James Bulger was abducted from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside. His murderers, Thompson and Venables, were convicted in November 1993 and detained indefinitely. However, they were released at 18 in 2001 with new identities. Thompson has not reoffended but Venables was sent back to jail in 2010 and 2017 after being caught with child sex abuse images.
Videos depict animated children, including James, recounting the details of their abductions and murders. Many of them show James’ avatar near the railway tracks where his body was found. These disturbing clips feature fake versions of missing or murdered children, such as Madeleine McCann, Baby P, and Rhys Jones.
Denise has pleaded with TikTok to remove these videos, which have garnered thousands of views without any content warnings. She particularly expressed distress over a video that closely resembled a photo of James, with his lips appearing to move.
“It is one thing to tell the story; I have not got a problem with that. Everyone knows the story of James anyway. But to actually put a dead child’s face, speaking about what happened to him, is absolutely disgusting. It is bringing a dead child back to life. It is wrong.”
She added: “To use the face and a moving mouth of a child who is no longer here, who has been brutally taken away from us, there are no words. I think these people must be disturbed. They have got to be. It is not just not nice for the parents to see. I don’t think anyone at all should be able to see stuff like this. To see his little face moving when he is no longer here, it is disgusting. It all should be taken down and stopped. It is not fair on the people who have lost children, or lost anyone. We are not just saying take James down, we are saying take it all down. It is beyond sick. Who can sit there and think of such a thing?”
Her husband, Stuart, discovered these videos earlier in the year and raised concerns about their upsetting nature. Despite reporting the content to TikTok, they have yet to receive a response. Stuart also contacted a producer of these videos but received a reply defending their intentions. He said: “It is not just James, it is other children, Madeleine McCann, Rhys Jones, any case like that. I don’t think these people understand the upset they are causing. Companies like TikTok should be held accountable. When you report it [to them], things should happen, but it doesn’t.”
TikTok has claimed to take down some of the reported videos and emphasised its commitment to removing disturbing content from its platform. However, upon further investigation, the Mirror found several videos of James still accessible on TikTok.
In 2022, it was reported that police face 12 crimes daily linked to TikTok, including allegations of death threats, violence, and child abuse images. The platform said back then it takes its responsibility for the safety of users “incredibly seriously” and works alongside law enforcement.
TikTok faces increasing scrutiny regarding safety concerns, with the platform experiencing crimes related to violence, threats, and child abuse images.