Today’s guilty verdict for the killer of schoolboy Rikki Neave will come as a relief to his abusive, drug-peddling mother, who has complained of being ‘treated like a murderer’ ever since his tragic death.
Today, 40-year-old James Watson, who was 13 when Rikki disappeared, was convicted at the Old Bailey of his murder – seven years after new evidence was found in a ‘cold case review’.
Watson was arrested after sophisticated technology that was not available in the original investigation found a ‘definitive match’ between his DNA profile and samples taken from Rikki’s clothing.
A constant theme in his trial was Ruth Neave’s appalling maltreatment of her son, along with the shocking circumstances of abuse and neglect that he grew up in.
Neave, who is now believed to be living with her new husband, Gary Rodgers, in a flat in Cambridgeshire, complained in 2019 of ‘living under a cloud’ since her son’s death, as she begged police to ‘find the real killer’.
Although she was found not guilty of murder, Neave – described in Watson’s trial as a ‘wholly unfit mother’ who used Rikki as a drug runner and ‘punch bag’ – had admitted to child cruelty was sentenced to seven years in prison.
She was eventually released from Holloway in 2000.
On one occasion, she allegedly left Neave screaming after locking him out of the house in his pyjamas.
In another incident, she held her son upside down on a bridge as he screamed, the jury heard.
Neave complained in 2019 of ‘living under a cloud’ since her son’s death, as she begged police to ‘find the real killer’
She had also grabbed the child around his throat, pushed him against a wall and lifted him up ‘to the point his feet were about a foot above the ground’.
At the time of his death, Neave was living with Rikki and his two younger sisters on the 1970s Welland Estate in Peterborough. The older sister, Rebecca, who was aged eight at the time of his death, was living in foster care.
Neave’s ex, Trevor Harvey, had ended their relationship when Rikki was three.
The family were well known to local social services, the court in Watson’s trial heard, and Rikki in particular was on the at-risk register around the time of his death.
In the hope that his killer would be found, Neave had made a series of emotional television appeals that were later claimed in her trial to be an act.
She came under suspicion after it emerged that she was writing a book about a serial killer. Murder squad detectives had discovered how a killer in the book boasted: ‘I am a danger to myself – I am a threat to everyone.’
The mother-of-four had described her book as ‘a first person account of the perfect murder – about a fellow who strangles and mutilates a girl’.
On January 19, 1995, Neave was arrested and questioned over her son’s murder. Four days later, she was charged with offences against the child and was accused of assaulting, mistreating and neglecting her son.