‘I don’t know why he did it’: Rikki Neave’s sister wants to confront his killer in prison

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The long-suffering sister of murdered school boy Rikki Neave has said she wants to confront his killer in jail after he was finally convicted 28 years after murdering him.

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James Watson, now 41, was last week convicted of killing six-year-old Rikki in 1994 when he was 13 years old and sister Rochelle Neave wants to ask him: ‘Why did you kill my brother?’

Rochelle, 30, was only 2 years old when depraved sexual fantasist Watson murdered Rikki but she remembers her ‘cheeky, loving’ brother. 

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She says she needs to face Watson in order to find out why he did it and get ‘closure’.

‘What on earth was he thinking, at 13 years old, to murder my brother?

‘I want to speak to him and ask him to give me answers,’ she told The Mirror. ‘But I don’t think I’m ever going to get them.’ 

'I don't know why he did it': Rikki Neave's sister wants to confront his killer in prison 1

Rochelle Neave wants to face her brother’s killer in jail to find out why he did it. She said she wants to get ‘closure’ but she but she does not think she’ll ever get it

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James Watson, now 41, was last week convicted of killing six-year-old Rikki in 1994 when he was 13 years old and sister Rochelle Neave wants to ask him: 'Why did you kill my brother?'

James Watson, now 41, was last week convicted of killing six-year-old Rikki in 1994 when he was 13 years old and sister Rochelle Neave wants to ask him: ‘Why did you kill my brother?’

Rikki (pictured) was found in woodland in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on November 29, 1994

Rikki (pictured) was found in woodland in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on November 29, 1994. James Watson was convicted of his murder 26 years later last week

Rikki’s body was found posed naked in a star shape by Watson after he had lured him into some woods in Peterborough, Cambridge and strangled him with his anorak in November 1994.

The horrific murder sparked national outrage at the time, less than two years after the abduction, torture and brutal killing of two-year-old James Bulger in Merseyside. 

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Despite being seen with Watson by neighbours on the morning of his murder, it was Rikki’s mother, Ruth Neaves, 53, who was the initial suspect. 

Ms Neave was cleared of her son’s murder by a jury at Northampton Crown Court following a high-profile 16-day trial but later admitted child cruelty in relation to a number of incidents throughout Rikki’s short life, including grabbing Rikki around the throat, pushing him against a wall and lifting him up. 

Rikki's mother, Ruth Neave (above), was cleared by a jury at Northampton Crown Court of her son's murder in 1996 but admitted child cruelty and was sentenced to seven years in jail

Rikki’s mother, Ruth Neave (above), was cleared by a jury at Northampton Crown Court of her son’s murder in 1996 but admitted child cruelty and was sentenced to seven years in jail

Rikki was found in woodland in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on November 29, 1994, stripped naked and left in a 'star pose'

Rikki had been heading to his school, Welland Primary School, that morning, alone, having had a bowl of Weetabix earlier this morning

Rikki’s murder became a story of huge national interest, coming just years after the tragic James Bulger case. Rikki had been heading to his school, Welland Primary School, that morning, alone, having had a bowl of Weetabix earlier this morning

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'I don't know why he did it': Rikki Neave's sister wants to confront his killer in prison 3

 

She was jailed for seven years for child cruelty in October 1996. 

Watson was interviewed by police as a witness at the time but his lies were not uncovered.

Rikki Neave’s murder: A timeline of how the tragic case unfolded over nearly 30 years

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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April 21 2022: Watson, now 41, is found guilty by a majority verdict of 10 to two by a jury at the Old Bailey.

It was his web of lies and constantly changing alibis which helped him evade justice for 28 years but he was finally arrested in 2016 after serving eight months for indecently assaulting a sleeping young man. 

Watson’s DNA had been found on adhesive tapings on Rikki’s clothes.

But in 2018 prosecutors decided to drop the case because of ‘insufficient evidence’. 

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Watson likely would have finally gotten away with Rikki’s murder had it not been for Rochelle successfully challenging the decision.

Rochelle saw Watson put on trial at the Old Bailey and found guilty of Rikki’s murder last week.

She sat in the courtroom for every day of the 11 day trials and called it ‘very hard’ to listen to the evidence. 

‘He was smug. He was cocky. It was just like ‘The James Watson Show’. 

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According to Rochelle, Watson would roll his eyes and laugh at her family through the dock window.

‘The thing that really got me is that he tried to cry in the box when he was giving his testimony, and it was the most pathetic attempt to cry I’ve ever seen in my life.

‘He wiped his eye one time, wiped his nose, and then carried on.’

It took the jury 36 hours and 31 minutes of deliberation to convict James Watson by a 10-2 verdict. 

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Jury members heard how Watson’s DNA was found on adhesive tapings on Rikki’s clothes, and that Watson’s posing of the six-year-old’s naked body was an act carried out for his own sexual gratification. 

Jury members at the Old Bailey heard how Watson was arrested after sophisticated technology found a ‘definitive match’ between his DNA profile and samples taken from Rikki’s clothing after a new investigation was opened into the case.

Watson fled the country on a ferry at Dover in June 2016, before eventually consenting to his extradition from Portugal two months later.  

Jury members in the three-month-long trial at the Old Bailey in London heard how Watson wrapped the collar of Rikki’s blue anorak around the younger boy’s throat from behind him, pulling tightly for at least 30 seconds, in order to kill him.

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They were also told how Watson – a convicted arsonist with ‘morbid fantasies’ and a ‘sexual interest’ in small children – had molested a five-year-old child a year before the murder and throttled a girlfriend during sex.

Reacting to the verdict, his mother Ruth Neave, 53, said she ‘hated’ Watson but admitted she regretted being on drugs when Rikki was killed. 

‘Because I was never allowed to go out when I was a kid, I was stuck inside, so I give him [Rikki] extra [freedom]. But what I do regret, is being on drugs as well. I was only on it for a year. One year everybody, one year.’

Rochelle said she still holds her mother – who beat and neglected Rikki – accountable for his death.  

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She said: ‘Even though she didn’t strangle him, she still let a six-year-old on the streets alone and she neglected him. All she was interested in was drugs and men and drink. 

‘I can’t stand her. I can’t even look at her. The things that she’s put us through and our poor brother, how he’s been treated, how he was murdered.’

But Rochelle proclaimed the verdict a ‘victory’ for justice and for her murdered brother, who she described as ‘loving, caring and cheeky’.

Speaking after today’s long-awaited verdict, she said: ‘He was so loving, so caring towards us. He would do anything,’

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‘If there was no food in he would go to the shop, nick it, come back and feed us.

‘He would make sure we were clean. He would run a bath. He was so clean, he loved being clean.’

Rochelle said it was a ‘victory’ that Watson had been found guilty of murder ‘because he thought he’d got away with it for that many years and thought we were just going to go away and roll under the table’. We weren’t,’ she added.

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