Ruth Neave: Who is Rikki Neave's mum and where is she now?

Ruth Neave, who has waited 28 years to secure justice for her son, Rikki

Ruth Neave, who has waited 28 years to secure justice for her son, Rikki - Credit: Terry Harris

A new tell-all Channel 5 documentary looks into the case of murdered six-year-old Peterborough boy Rikki Neave, and how his mum Ruth waited 28 years to secure a conviction.

Rikki's killer, James Watson, who was aged 13 when Rikki disappeared on November 28, 1994, was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey in London last week (April 21).

The case and trial is unpacked in The Murder of Rikki Neave: The Mother's Story, which features a TV exclusive interview with Ruth Neave.

Ruth herself was jailed in 1996 after admitting child cruelty - but she was never found guilty of murdering her son.

What happened to Ruth, and where is she now?

Rikki Neave

Rikki Neave - Credit: PA

Convicted murderer James Watson, who killed Rikki Neave in 1994

Convicted murderer James Watson, who killed Rikki Neave in 1994 - Credit: Cambridgeshire Constabulary

A photograph of the crime scene on November 29, 1994, one day after the disappearance of six-year-old Rikki Neave

A photograph of the crime scene on November 29, 1994, one day after the disappearance of six-year-old Rikki Neave - Credit: PA

Rikki's mum reported her son missing at 6pm on Monday, November 28 in 1994. Rikki had eaten Weetabix for breakfast and left his home at 9.30am, but he never arrived at school.

Ruth's neighbours said they saw Rikki accompanied by James Watson that morning.

Officers from Cambridgeshire Police turned up at Ruth's home on Redmile Walk at 6.17pm, and they found Rikki's body naked and laid in a star shape in nearby woodland the following day.

The Eastern Daily Press front page on November 30, 1994, with a short article announcing the death of Rikki Neave

The Eastern Daily Press front page on November 30, 1994, with a short article detailing the discovery of Rikki Neave in Peterborough woodland - Credit: The EDP archive at localrecall.co.uk

A photograph from Ruth Neave's former home at 209 Redmile Walk, taken by police during the original investigation

A photograph from Ruth Neave's former home at 209 Redmile Walk, taken by police during the original investigation - Credit: PA

A post-mortem examination concluded he was strangled with the zip of his anorak hood.

Most Read

The then 13-year-old Watson gave a false account to police on December 5.

On January 19, 1995, Ruth was arrested on suspicion of murder.

By October 1996, a jury at Northampton Crown Court unanimously acquitted Ruth of her son's murder, but she pleaded guilty to child cruelty and was jailed for seven years.

Ruth Neave was acquitted of murder, but she pleaded guilty to child cruelty

Ruth Neave was acquitted of murder, but she pleaded guilty to child cruelty - Credit: Archant/Eastern Daily Press

Upon her release, she returned to Cambridgeshire where she met her husband Gary Rogers.

She approached the Cambs Times in 2014, and together with her husband Gary and editor John Elworthy, Ruth campaigned for police to reopen her case.

Gary Rogers, Ruth Neave's husband, approached the Cambs Times in 2014, and a campaign began to reopen the case

Gary Rogers, Ruth Neave's husband, approached the Cambs Times in 2014, and a campaign began to reopen the case - Credit: Archant/Cambs Times

Press conferences followed, and police looked at DNA evidence on Rikki's clothing which matched samples provided by Watson - and a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer decided in 2019 that Watson should face prosecution.

The murderer was charged in 2020, and a trial began in February this year.

A jury in London deliberated for 36 hours and 31 minutes before delivering their guilty verdict.

A court sketch showing Ruth Neave (centre) speaking at the trial of James Watson (right)

A court sketch showing Ruth Neave (centre) speaking at the trial of James Watson (right) - Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Paul Fullwood, senior lead for the investigation, outside the Old Bailey following James Watson's guilty verdict

Former assistant chief constable Paul Fullwood, senior lead for the investigation, outside the Old Bailey following James Watson's guilty verdict - Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

"Gary worked night and day going over every document, statement and piece of evidence he could find (and how he got hold of them will remain untold)," explained Cambs Times editor John Elworthy.

"I interviewed them, often, and compiled fresh stories, offering fresh thoughts, fresh perspective with a growing sense a provincial newspaper editor might just ‘have something’.

"I grew fond of Ruth and Gary. And never wanted to quit – even when a family member threw hot coffee over me for ‘siding with that scum’. 

"Now, with the verdict in, I am simply relieved."

Rikki Neave, who was murdered when he was aged six in 1994

Rikki Neave, who was murdered when he was aged six in 1994 - Credit: Cambridgeshire Constabulary/PA

But Ruth will not watch the documentary.

"It’s far too emotional for me and I don’t want to see it," she said.

Since the verdict, Ruth suffered a fall at her Cambridgeshire home and shattered her shoulder.

She had emergency surgery in Cambridge on Monday, and is recovering at home.

"Both my husband Gary and I are exhausted and need to recharge," she said.

Ruth is determined to attend Watson's sentencing on Monday, May 9, where she would like to read her victim statement out before the man who killed her son.

Watch The Murder of Rikki Neave: The Mother's Story on My5.