Brutal and bewildering

February 20. Britain, and the world, was horrified at the arrest of two boys aged ten in Liverpool for the abduction and murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger.

Jamie Bulger's funeralThe toddler wandered away from his mother in a shopping centre. Security cameras showed him being led away by the two boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. They took him to a railway embankment where they tortured and stoned him to death. The killing caused revulsion, bewilderment and endless soul-searching.

Was no child safe from abduction? Was Britain raising a generation of amoral children who simply didn't understand right from wrong? As sales of kiddy-leads soared, police painstakingly assembled the case against the two killers.

Hundreds of mourners attended Jamie's funeral. A mob attacked the prison van carrying the accused. But at the trial at Preston Crown Court, public apathy was in the dock alongside the young killers. The court heard how witness after witness had seen the bruised and weeping child with the two older boys, but none had intervened. Neither of the boys offered any explanation for what had happened. The judge suggested that violent videos may have been responsible

Esha Ness romps homeApril 3. The Grand National that never was - animal rights demonstrators disrupted the start of the race at Aintree. Esha Ness raced home first in the world's greatest steeplechase, but the result was declared null and void. Bookmakers had to return 75 million which had been staked on the race.

April 20. The two-month long siege of the headquarters of the Cult Davidian in Waco, Texas, came to a bloody end. A fire broke out when the FBI rammed the compound with tanks and fired tear gas. The blaze ripped through the building killing 95 including the cult leader David Koresh. The siege had begun on February 28 when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to raid the compound to search for illegally-held weapons. Four agents died when cult members opened fire.

September 13. Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat shook hands and sign a peace accord on the White House lawn. The historic agreement gave the Palestinians limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The old foes had been brought together by US President Bill Clinton after the Norwegian government worked secretly for months to organise talks between the PLO and Israel.

December 15. The Downing Street Declaration raised fresh hopes for an end to the terrorist violence that had claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people in Britain and Ireland since 1968. British Prime Minister John Major and his Irish counterpart Albert Reynolds agreed an arrangement by which a united Ireland might be created.


In brief

February 24. England's 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore died aged 51.

February 26. Seven people were killed when a bomb exploded in a car park underneath the World Trade Centre in New York.

March 2. A 100 million manufacturing centre devoted solely to car components - the first of its kind in Europe - was unveiled for the Patent Shaft Steelworks site in Wednesbury.

March 18. A damning auditors' report showed that West Midlands Regional Health Authority wasted up to 12 million on a computer system.

April 6. A report showed that more than 1,000 Wolverhampton women each year were having abortions outside the borough because some local health workers refused to carry out terminations.

April 21. Wolverhampton Council agreed to spend £300,000 on fire alarms in council homes after the death of two 16-month twins in Bushbury.

April 24. An IRA bomb in the City of London caused damage estimated at 1 billion. One man died.

April 28. Staffordshire Police reported a 16 per cent rise in crime - the third highest of any police force in Britain.

August 7. Shropshire social services defended sending a teenage car thief on an 11-week "holiday" to Portugal, despite public outrage.

October 15. South African President F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

December 3. Diana, Princess of Wales, announced that she would be withdrawing from public life in the new year.