Faster than you could say email hoax, Perth police and the
British High Commission last night quashed the rumours circulated nation-wide by email yesterday – Crikey received it a total of 21
times – that a 21-year-old man charged over the rape and murder of a Perth
schoolgirl this week was one of the notorious English child killers of British toddler
James Bulger.

But they obviously weren’t quick enough to stop the dangerous untruth
from making its way onto Wikipedia – the world wide web’s free encyclopedia “that anyone can edit”. Last night, at about 7pm AEST, it ran this “fact” in its
entry on James Bulger – the three-year-old who was abducted and murdered in 1993 by two ten-year-old
boys, Robert Thompson and John Venables, on Merseyside in the UK:

One of the boys were sent to Perth,
Western Australia as part of a
prisoner-exchange, and adopted the name Dante Arthurs. A reverse of his
grandfather’s name Arthur Dante. …(He was)
living with his parents in Lakeview Rise Estate, working at the Livingston
Shopping Centre, when on Monday, June 26th at 4:20pm
at he raped and strangled an eight-year-old girl in the toilets.

The above text has since been removed and the Bulger entry now
carries the warning to readers that the article is missing the citations and
footnotes required for verifiability and “may not conform to the neutral point
of view policy”.

As for the emails, they are believed to be based on
speculation that Thompson began a new life in Australia,
after he and Venables were released from prison and given new identities in 2001 – speculation
that WA Police Deputy Commissioner Chris Dawson says is without grounds.

The Daily Telegraph today reports that sources in London last night dismissed the rumour as nonsense,
adding that a similar murder in Ireland a few years was also initially
thought to be the work of Thompson. It also reports that the Australian High Commission in London have confirmed
there was no fingerprint match between Arthurs and either Thompson or Venables.

Meanwhile, here is the Wikipedia entry on “hoax”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey