Rikki Neave killer James Watson jailed for life with minimum 15-year term

Child-killer James Watson, 41, has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years at the Old Bailey for murdering Rikki Neave

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Six-year-old Rikki Neave was murdered by Watson, then 13, in 1994.

Watson lured schoolboy Rikki to woods near his home in Peterborough and strangled him to fulfil a “morbid fantasy” he had told his mother about three days before.

He stripped Rikki and posed his naked body in a star shape for sexual gratification, deliberately “exhibiting” him near a children’s woodland den.

His sentence was determined largely by the age he was at the time he struck.

Rikki Neave was murdered by James Watson
Rikki Neave was murdered by James Watson

The judge, Mrs Justice McGowan, said: “Rikki was a child too willing to trust and engage with strangers.

“He never had the chance to be happy and lead a normal and fulfilling life. That opportunity was denied to him by his murder.”

Rikki’s murder was among the most high-profile cold cases on police files until Watson’s DNA was identified on the victim’s clothes following a re-examination of the case two decades later.

Mother-of-four Ruth Neave was cleared of her son’s murder in 1996 but was jailed for seven years after admitting child cruelty – a conviction she is reported to be considering challenging, many years after her release.

James Watson in the dock at the Old Bailey
James Watson in the dock at the Old Bailey

She did not attend court for the sentencing hearing.

In a witness statement, read on her behalf, she said: “Like stones dropping in a pond, it (the murder) has rippled out far and wide.

“Rikki’s murder left a massive hole in our lives and in our hearts

“I miss him so much that it feels like I have had my heart ripped out.”

Rebecca Maria Harvey, Rikki’s eldest sister, broke down as she addressed the court.

She said: “Although I was the eldest, it wasn’t like that as he would look after me.

“Losing Rikki was like losing the other half of me.”

Addressing Watson, but not using his name, she said: “After all these years of living your life you finally get your comeuppance, and Rikki Lee Harvey finally gets justice.”