DNA trace lands alleged Rikki Neave murder suspect in court 28 years after attack

·2-min read
Rikki Neave - PA
Rikki Neave - PA

A 40-year-old man has been linked to the murder of a six year-old boy nearly three decades ago through DNA evidence, a court has heard.

James Watson was aged just 13 when he allegedly launched a “surprise attack” on Rikki Neave and strangled him with his own jacket on November 28 1994, the Old Bailey heard.

He then allegedly stripped the boy’s body and posed him in a “star shape” in woodland, before dumping his clothes in a nearby bin.

Prosecutors told the court that Mr Watson went on to develop a “grotesque interest” in child murder.

Ruth Neave, Rikki’s mother, had been accused of murdering the boy six months after his death, but was later acquitted by a jury.

Now, 28 years later, Watson’s DNA has been allegedly found on Rikki’s clothes, linking him to the murder.

At the start of Watson’s trial on Tuesday, jurors heard a recording of Ms Neave’s 999 call to report her son missing on the November evening.

James Watson, centre, appeared on trial accused of the murder of Rikki Neave in 1994 - Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
James Watson, centre, appeared on trial accused of the murder of Rikki Neave in 1994 - Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire

Just after 12pm the next day, a police officer discovered Rikki’s body in woodland near the housing estate in Peterborough where he lived.

Prosecutor John Price QC said it was a place where Rikki and his friends used to play and was just a five-minute walk from his home.

Mr Price said: “He had been strangled. The body was naked. It was lying on the ground, flat on its back. It had been deliberately posed by the killer, in a star shape, with outstretched arms, and his legs placed wide apart.

“There was no sign of any of Rikki’s clothing. But perched poignantly on a leaf, just 18 inches from the left hand was a single, small, white shirt button.”

Mr Price said that the laces on his black shoes were still tied, his underwear and socks were rolled up in his jacket and three small white buttons were missing from his shirt.

Police in 1994 scoured for clues at the scene where Rikki Neave’s body was found - PA Wire
Police in 1994 scoured for clues at the scene where Rikki Neave’s body was found - PA Wire

In the right-hand pocket of the jacket were two small plastic toys and some cards.

Six months later, Rikki’s mother was charged with murder and child cruelty.

In 1996, Northampton Crown Court heard how she had threatened to kill her son, scrawled “idiot” across his forehead and squirted washing-up liquid in his mouth.

Mr Price told jurors that her acquittal was the correct verdict as she could not have committed the killing.

As a result, Rikki’s murder remained a mystery until 2015 when the cold case investigation was opened, jurors heard.

Adhesive tapings from Rikki’s clothes were examined and a DNA match to Mr Watson was allegedly made.

Mr Watson, of no fixed address, has denied murder.

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