How rumour started over James Bulger's killer played a part in the murder of John Littlewood

A rumour claiming a Scouser living in a small County Durham pit village was the killer of James Bulger played a part in the tragic events which led to the death of a dad-of-two.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 4:53 pm

Today, as the 31-year-old was sentenced, Teesside Crown Court heard his actions were sparked in part to murderer Marty Bates telling him that Mr Littlewood has been saying he was one of the killers of James Bulger.

The two-year-old was killed in Liverpool in February 1993 by 10-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

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James Nathan Riley, top, was a friend of John Littlewood's before they fell out over rumours. Mr Littlewood later died at the hands of their pal Marty Bates.

Both were given new identities system, with a world-wide ban on revealing their details.

According to Riley’s own birth date, he would have been just three at the time of the tragedy.

Gregory Bull QC, representing Riley, said in mitigation Riley assaulted Mr Littlewood on the night before he was killed when “Riley, a man of low intelligence and poorly educated, overreacted to a situation.”

He went on to state Bates had told Riley Mr Littlewood was saying he was one of the toddler’s killers and living under a false identity, leading to a fall out.

James Nathan Riley and Donna Balfour.

He added: “It was wholly untrue and caused great offence and seemed to have some credence by nature of the fact my client comes from Liverpool and speaks with a heavy accent.”

Mr Bull today said Riley had been directed by Bates – who is now serving a minimum term of 24 years – to turn off the CCTV system in his home, which he and then-partner Donna Balfour later tried to delete entirely.

Judge Paul Watson QC sentenced Riley to eight months for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, 20 months for perverting the course of justice and 16 months for witness intimidation, which related to threatening to kill a neighbour Mr Littlewood’s if she told police they had been to his home after his death.

Marty Bates will serve at least 24 years for the murder of John Littlewood.

The trial had heard evidence Riley had told Bates to “get him in the boot” as they moved a car into the back lane of Mr Littlewood’s Third Street home, with Bates responding he would have nothing to do with it.

That visit sparked the later call to the door of them neighbour where he told her she would cause her harm if she told police about what she had seen and heard.

Today’s hearing was told Riley’s love for Balfour, 36, now of Neasham Road in Darlington, is “no longer reciprocated” and he was unable to see the daughter she gave birth to while in custody.

John Littlewood was known as John D by his loved ones.

She was sentenced to 29 months for perverting the course of justice for interfering with the CCTV system in a bid to delete footage.

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