Rikki Neaves murder mystery solved by Weetabix clue after killer evaded justice

The family of strangled schoolboy Rikki Neave will discover how long his killer will be locked up for after waiting almost 28 years for justice to be served.

Rikki was six when he was lured into the woods near his Peterborough home and throttled by James Watson.

Police had initially accused Rikki’s mother Ruth Neave of the killing after the boy's body was discovered just 500 metres from his family home, but she was acquitted after a trial. She was later caged for seven years for child neglect.

New evidence later emerged leading police back to Watson, who was aged 13 in November 28 1994 when the murder occurred, and had been questioned at the time.

An Old Bailey jury found him guilty, bringing the case to a close after almost a three-decade search for answers, with Watson set for sentencing today (June 24).

What happened to Rikki Neave?

A jury accepted that twisted Watson was guilty of squeezing the life out of Rikki to fulfil a “morbid fantasy” he had told his mother about three days before.

He strangled primary school boy Rikki from behind with a ligature or anorak collar before stripping him and posing his lifeless naked body in a star shape for sexual gratification, deliberately “exhibiting” him near a children’s woodland den.

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Rikki’s body was found the day after he went missing.

How was Rikki Neave's killer caught?

A DNA breakthrough was behind catching Watson and helping to unravel the lies he had told about his recollections of the day Rikki was murdered.

Watson was spoken to as a witness at the time because he was seen with Rikki on the day of his disappearance.

But his lying account went unchallenged and he was only considered a suspect when DNA samples years later linked him to Rikki’s discarded clothes.

In a police interview in 2016, Watson attempted to explain his DNA’s presence on Rikki’s clothes by claiming he picked him up to look at diggers through a hole in a fence.

Prosecutor John Price QC said that was his “really big mistake”, as police were able to prove the fence was not there in 1994.

Jurors heard that key evidence in the case against Watson included Rikki’s last meal, of Weetabix, which fixed his time of death at about noon.

It meant Rikki was killed shortly after being seen with Watson heading to the woods where he used to play.

The court heard how Watson had been interviewed the year before the murder in relation to an allegation he had molested a five-year-old.

Staff at his children’s home also noted disturbing behaviour, including catching him masturbating over pictures of young boys in underwear and keeping a dead pheasant in his room.

How many years in jail will James Watson get for killing Rikki Neave?

In April, Watson, now 41, was found guilty of murder by a majority after an Old Bailey jury deliberated for 36 hours and 31 minutes.

Today, Watson will return to the London crown court where Mrs Justice McGowan will sentence him to life and set a minimum term before he can be considered for release.


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