Murdered toddler James Bulger’s grieving mother has revealed that she believes that whenever she sees a robin it’s a sign her son has come to be by her side.
Denise Fergus made the revelation in last night’s TV documentary James Bulger: A Mother’s Story – broadcast to coincide with the anniversary of James’ death 25-five-years ago next week.
The two-year-old was abducted from a shopping centre and murdered by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were themselves just 10 years old at the time, in February 1993.
In last night’s ITV documentary, Denise let host Trevor McDonald – and, for the first time, the nation – into the home she shares with her second husband Stuart to show how she keeps the memory of James alive.
In particular, she revealed she surrounds herself with images of robins – which she sees as a symbol of her son.
Denise explained: "All the robins, they mean so much because every time I see a robin I always say to Stuart: ‘Here’s James come to see me’.
"I try to get a picture every time I see them."
The documentary showed how an inscription hangs in her window with an image of the bird alongside the comforting words: "When robins appear, loved ones are near."
MirrorOnline reported last year how many people believe robins are symbols of visits from the dead.
They often take great comfort in seeing one of the birds – and take it as a sign that their relative is still around.
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"Please show Mummy a sign": Grieving mum realises little boy is ‘still with her’ at graveside
Mum Marie Robinson was reduced to tears when she asked for a ‘sign’ from her little boy on the anniversary of his death – and a robin appeared at his graveside.
She lost her four-year-old son Jack in 2014 – three months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Marie, 45, had been finding it difficult knowing the third anniversary of his death was approaching – and on the day she visited his grave asked out loud: "Jack, please show Mummy a sign."
She told MirrorOnline last April: "I was overcome with emotion and I sat on the grass next to Jack.
"With that a little robin kept flying around me trying to land on me, eventually landing on my foot – he didn’t seem scared at all.
"He went and sat on a nearby headstone so I got my phone out to film him being close to me and he flew over and landed on my hand.
"He kept looking at me directly in my face and at one point he landed on my shoulder and nibbled me a couple of times."
She shared the video on Facebook, saying: "Can’t believe what’s just happened, come to see my precious boy Jack – just sat down on ground next to him and this happened.
"Yes it brought me to tears. Taking it as a sign from Jack."
– When we shared this story on the Daily Mirror Facebook page , we were inundated with similar stories from people who had lost those close to them, saying they too had seen robins and been comforted.
Below are 11 of those stories people shared with us.
1. "I felt an immense sense of calm"
Stacey Woodhouse said: "The day after my Mum’s funeral, my husband and I decided to still go on a weekend camping trip that had been arranged before her passing.
"A robin flew around us, landing in our picnic table. She then proceeded to hop into our awning and through into our camper van.
"She stayed there looking at us for a good few minutes while I chatted with her.
"I felt an immense sense of calm. My mum loved joining us for camping trips, even it was only for a few hours and a cuppa.
2. "She put her hand over her mouth and pointed"
Sylvia Rafter: "My Mam passed in June. I was driving home to get clothes when my neighbour was driving towards me.
"We both stopped and I broke down telling her about Mam. She put her hand over her mouth and pointed and there, on my car mirror, was perched a robin… even with the engine running."
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3. "I feel so happy whenever I see one"
Sharon Sandford commented: "I have always believed robins to be a sign that a loved one is near. Never failed to see one at the cemetery when visiting my brother’s resting place.
"My mum died last November and we buried her ashes next to my brother on what would have been his birthday.
"The biggest robin appeared and actually went into the grave. He then hopped over to my Dad and then me. I feel so happy whenever I see one."
4. "It was a lovely moment"
Ann Brady said: "There is a little robin who visited us when we were standing at my son’s resting place as well.
"On one of the first occasions we visited and stood there. It hopped down in front of us looked at us. We still see it from time to time. It was a lovely moment!"
5. "I was sat in tears"
Susan Lennon shared her story, saying: "I lost my father and brother in 11 weeks. The spring after my father died, a robin appeared in my garden I was sat in tears about my dad and brother because of it.
"The robin landed on my bird table just looking at me. Just two weeks later I had cancer removed from my womb and the robin appeared the next day too."
6. "Please take care of me today"
Becky Fairclough said: "Every morning before work I hear a robin singing in a certain tree. I always smile, say: ‘I know that you’re there and please take care of me today.’
"I have also had a butterfly appear in the house for the past four winters, usually in December or January… I’d like to believe it’s my mum watching over me."
7. "I believe in robins and white feathers"
Corrina Whelan commented: "The first time we visited my nana’s resting place after she died, a robin appeared on her headstone.
"And for a long time after that a robin would appear on the wall outside the kitchen window every time my mother called to my house. I believe in robins and white feathers."
8. "It brings such a feeling of peace"
Andrea Helliwell said: "There is often a robin around my late first husband and baby daughter’s grave. It brings with it such a feeling of peace.
"My Dad always said he would come back as a robin because everybody loved them. Each time a family member has died, I have seen a robin so now I make sure I feed the robins on my bird table."
9. Many other people felt the same way
Karon Carr said: "When my dad died in a hospice there was one outside his window and one comes back every year."
Diane Atherley said: "At my father’s wake a robin walked into the hall were we were holding it in – just in front of me. I believe it was Dad saying ‘I’m with you all.’"
Laney Head commented: "I see a robin every day when I am at my son’s grave or walking past his park where he used to play. It is only since 29.12.2016. God bless."
Nicki Knotts said: "I don’t believe in God and I never used to buy into the afterlife, but then my Grandma died and ever since I frequently have a robin in my garden. Usually at difficult times, so this I do believe."
10. It even comforts pet owners
Lyndsey McHugh: "We lost our two dogs within a short space of each other.
"When I’m thinking of them looking into the garden, two robins always appear and seems to fly around like playing. Brings great comfort."
11. People also see butterflies as ‘signs’
Yvonne Boylan said: "My little brother came to me as a butterfly when he died and has done since that day.
"I see them everywhere and now I have them tattooed on me so he’s with me for the rest of my life."
Robins are often seen in the spiritual community as a symbol that loved ones are still there.
The Spiritual Centre website explains: "This bird is a visitor and as such should be appreciated as a welcome visitor bringing gifts, it is for you to interpret the gifts it brings.
"Someone recently passed may be showing you that you are being watched, maybe just letting you know that they still love you."
Some comments have been edited for clarity or grammar.