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Justice for Rikki Neave as killer convicted 26 years after boy's innocent mum put on trial

NewsJustice for Rikki Neave as killer convicted 26 years after boy's innocent mum put on trial


41-year-old James Watson was convicted of murdering Rikki in 1994 at the Old Bailey earlier today. Rikki’s mother, Ruth Neave, was initially charged with his murder. The 53-year-old was acquitted in 1996, but was jailed for seven years after admitting child cruelty in relation to Rikki and two of his sisters.

Watson, of no fixed abode, was convicted following a DNA breakthrough in 2016, which revealed that he had been in physical contact with the six-year-old boy on the day of his disappearance.

He was 13-years-old when the murder took place.

Watson was convicted after jurors were given a majority verdict direction by judge Mrs Justice McGowan. 

Clare Forsdike, a senior crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said the conviction brings “justice for Rikki” and “concludes an appalling unsolved crime almost 30 years after it happened”. 

Rikki’s sister Rochelle Neave, 30, said the verdict was a “victory” for the family. 

She said: “He thought he’d got away with it for that many years and thought we were just going to go away and roll under the table. We weren’t.”

The schoolboy disappeared on 28 November 1994. His body was found in woods near his home in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire the following day. 

He had been strangled and his naked body deliberately posed in a star shape by his killer. 

The court heard that Watson had launched a “suprise attack” on the boy and strangled him with his own jacket. 

Watson was seen with Rikki the day he went mising and was spoken to by police as a witness at the time. 

A cold case investigation into the murder was opened in 2015. 

A DNA match to Watson was made after adhesive tapings on Rikki’s clothes were examined. 

The killer claimed he may have lifted Rikki up to help him see over a fence, but police discovered archive TV footage which showed there was no fence at the time. 

Watson was arrested in 2016 and released on bail. He then left the UK in a motorhome via Dover ferry port with another bail hostel resident. 

He was re-arrested near the British Embassy in Lisbon and brought back to the UK.

Ms Forsdike said Watson had put the Neave family through “agony” for decades.

She said: “Ultimately a combination of evidence from DNA, post-mortem, soil samples, eyewitness testimony, and his changing accounts proved overwhelming.

“Only James Watson knows why he did it. He remained silent for two decades and then put Rikki’s family through the agony of a trial.”

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