James Watson, 41, found guilty of murdering Rikki Neave in 1994
- Credit: PA
James Watson, 41, has been found guilty by majority verdict at the Old Bailey of murdering six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave in 1994.
Rikki disappeared on November 28 1994 and his body was found in woodland near his home in Peterborough the next day.
He had been strangled and his naked body was posed in a star shape by his killer.
James Watson, who was 13 at the time of Rikki's death, was found guilty by jurors at the Old Bailey in London this afternoon (April 21).
He was the second person to stand trial for Rikki's murder, after the boy's mother Ruth Neave was cleared by a jury in 1996.
Justice finally caught up with James Watson more than 27 years after he strangled six-year-old Rikki Neave when he was himself a boy.
Here is how the case unfolded:
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– November 22 1994: James Watson, aged 13, moves from foster care to a children’s home called Woodgates in March, Cambridgeshire, which is 20 miles from Peterborough.
– November 25 1994: Watson allegedly phones his mother to ask about a fictional young child being found dead in woods.
– November 28: Rikki eats Weetabix for breakfast at around 9.30am and leaves home but never arrives at school. He is seen with Watson by residents in the morning. At 6pm, Ruth Neave, his mother, reports him missing. Police arrive at her home on Redmile Walk at 6.17pm.
– November 29: At 12.05pm, Rikki is found dead in woods near the estate. He is naked and his body posed in a star shape. A post-mortem examination concludes he has been strangled with the zip of his anorak hood.
– November 30: At 9.30am Rikki’s missing clothing is found by a police officer in a wheelie bin in Willoughby Court.
– December 5: Watson gives a lying account when he is interviewed by police as a witness.
– January 19 1995: Ms Neave is arrested on suspicion of the murder and interviewed.
– May 24: She is charged with the murder of her son and offences of cruelty, to him and two of his sisters.
– October 1996: Ms Neave goes on trial at Northampton Crown Court and is unanimously acquitted of murder. The prosecution wrongly allege she killed Rikki at home and then wheeled him in a buggy to the woods after reporting him missing. She pleads guilty to child cruelty and is jailed for seven years.
– 1999: Rikki’s stepfather Dean Neave dies in a car crash.
– 2015: A cold case review is launched into Rikki’s unsolved murder.
– June 11 2015: A press release highlights “major forensic and technological developments in the past 20 years”.
– February 2016: A DNA match to Watson is identified from tapings of Rikki’s clothes and he is designated as a suspect. In police interviews, Watson changes his account and introduces the suggestion he may have picked up Rikki to look at diggers through a hole in a fence.
– 2018: A victim’s right to review is launched into an initial decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute Watson.
– October 2019: A reviewing CPS lawyer reaches a decision that Watson should be prosecuted.
– February 17 2020: Watson is charged with the murder of Rikki. However, he challenges the legality of the extradition process used to bring him back from Portugal to face trial.
– February 2022: Watson goes on trial at the Old Bailey for Rikki’s murder.
– April 21 2022: Watson, now 41, is found guilty by a majority verdict of 10 to two by a jury at the Old Bailey.
Family statement from Rikki’s aunties – Sandra Chestney and Alison Harvey (Rikki’s late father’s sisters):
On behalf of Rikki Lee Harvey's father Trevor, sister Rebecca and extended paternal family: “We would like to sincerely thank everyone involved who have worked tirelessly, patiently and with commitment to ensure the conviction of James Watson for the murder of our Rikki.
“This is a day we feared would never come, 27 years is a long time to grieve without closure. Taking its toll on the whole family then and now.
“Sadly, Rikki's dad Trevor passed away not knowing what happened to his 'Best Boy in the World', now they can finally both be at peace together.”
Family statement from Rebecca Harvey (Rikki’s sister – daughter of Ruth Neave and Trevor Harvey):
“You have all known Rikki as Rikki Neave - I’d like to address Rikki by his correct name - Rikki Lee Harvey. Sadly, Rikki’s dad and my dad, Trevor, is no longer with us to see his son’s justice. But I’d like to say. Nothing will bring Rikki back, but Rikki has finally received some justice today and we are all relieved. Although this day is a painful reminder of the loss we have all suffered, justice has finally been served.
“It’s the outcome we wanted. The defendant has been convicted, finally.
“We are grateful for this case being heard again, considering the complexities through to the end and we would like to thank the jury and, the majority of the police, who never gave up in the new investigation.
“Our Rikki - your beautiful blue eyes and cheeky smile will never be forgotten, and you will always be by our side.
“Rikki Lee Harvey - the best boy in the world.”
Family statement from Rochelle and Shelley Neave (Rikki’s younger sisters):
“We as a family praise the guilty verdict now that Rikki has got his justice he deserves after so many years. He can now rest in peace, and we have closure.
“We are glad nobody else’s family has to suffer at the hands of his killer and the streets will also be safer for our communities. It will never take the pain away from what Rikki suffered but justice has been rightly served. We love you so much Rikki sleep tight little man you will always be in our hearts and never forgotten.”