Man who found James Bulger’s body dead after going ‘off the rails’

A man who went “off the rails” after finding the body of murdered toddler James Bulger in 1993 when he was a teenager has died in police custody. James Riley, 44, was found dead on the floor of his police cell on March 15 after being detained. 

After the grim find with his brother Terence, James Riley – nicknamed “Osty” – descended into a life of crime and drug addiction. 

James Bulger was tortured and murdered by 10-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson who led him from his mother in Bootle Strand shopping centre.

According to his lawyer Brendan Carvill, James sought drink and drugs instead of receiving counselling.

Mr Carvill told a court: “The horror of what he found on that occasion with his brother and two friends is something he has lived with ever since. 

“Rather than taking advantage of counselling and the like he turned to alcohol and drugs.”

One of Mr Riley’s friends, Darren Gee posted on Twitter: “He was never the same after finding young James on the rail track. RIP Osty.”

Riley would go on to be convicted more than 40 times for a variety of convictions.

Two years ago, Riley was dumped on the streets in his underwear holding a knife after he racked up debts with gangsters in Scotland.

In 2010, when he went to Liverpool Crown Court for theft, Riley blamed his teenage experience for his life of difficulty.

Back in 2003, Riley’s grandmother said of James’ experience: “Neither has spoken of it. They bottled it up. We tried to get the boys to talk about it, but they used to become hysterical, screaming they didn’t want to think about it.

“After that day James went off the rails and Terence’s personality changed totally. We hardly see him these days, but we know it was finding James’ body that changed him.

“Every night I pray for little James, but I also pray for my grandsons.”

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Riley was taken to custody at St Anne Street Police Station in the evening of March 14 where he remained in a cell overnight.

But at around 5pm the next day, police became aware he was lying on the floor and needed medical attention.

Paramedics were called to the station and he was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Regional Director of the police watchdog, the IOPC, Catherine Bates said: “This was a tragic incident in which a man has sadly died and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

“Merseyside Police referred this matter to us, and as he was in the custody of police at the time he became unwell, it is important there is a thorough and independent investigation.

“We will examine all relevant matters including the interaction officers had with the man on the street, and what happened after he arrived at the custody suite. We have made contact with his family to explain our role and will update them as our enquiries progress.”

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