According to a recent podcast, police suppressed information that placed doubt on their notion that the mother of slain youngster Rikki Neave was responsible for the boy’s death, leading to the mother’s unjustifiable pursuit of justice.
The day after his mother Ruth Neave reported him missing on November 28, 1994, the six-year-old was discovered dead, nude, and posed in a “star stance” in the woods not far from his Peterborough home.
When Neave was first charged with his murder in 1996, Cambridgeshire Police made him their top suspect.
The cops alleged she murdered her kid at his house and then wheeled his corpse to the surrounding woods in a pushchair.
Although she was exonerated, she admitted to abusing children and received a seven-year jail term.
After Neave’s persistent advocacy, Cambridgeshire Police decided to re-open the investigation in 2015, ending the case’s almost two-decade long state of limbo.
Following the discovery of fresh, devastating evidence in April, James Watson, 40, was found guilty of killing Rikki. In June, the judge gave him a life sentence.
The Boy in the Woods, a new BBC podcast, however, has shown how the police disregarded expert forensic evidence that undermined their case without informing the jury in Neave’s case.
In the early stages of the first inquiry, police sent scientist Professor Tony Brown to look at Rikki’s clothing. Professor Brown discovered that dirt on the child’s shoes revealed he had entered the woods but never left.
The pushchair was never provided to him, despite his promise to test it for muck from the woods, he said to the BBC. Police could not provide anything to a jury at the time that might have weakened their case, according to the law.
In response to the BBC’s findings, the senior officer in charge of the 2015 re-investigation said that he and his staff were unable to explain “why this material was not utilised previously,” but added that the mistakes ‘would not happen today.
A neglected strip of Sellotape that retained fibers from his clothes carrying his DNA was one of the reasons Watson was ultimately brought to justice.
When the crime was committed, he was 13 years old.
In contrast to the fact that almost all of the information gathered during the first inquiry had been lost or given to Rikki’s family, police discovered envelopes holding the recording.
They included fibers that matched Watson’s DNA in a “billion to one” ratio with those taken from Rikki’s clothes.
Since Rikki’s mother had abused her son in the past and had records of it, suspicion first landed on her.
As a “wholly unsuitable mother” who exploited Rikki as a drug courier and “punch bag,” she was characterized by the prosecution in Watson’s trial.
In another instance, it was reported that Neave had hung her kid upside down on a bridge as he wailed. In one instance, Rikki was allegedly left wailing after being shut out of the home while still wearing his pajamas.
Additionally, she had raised the youngster “to the point his feet were nearly a foot off the ground” while holding him by the neck, pushing him up against a wall.
Watson’s name was soon ruled out in the first lawsuit.
During his examination of Rikki’s possessions, Professor Brown said on the Boy in the Woods podcast: “I focused on one shoe, the right shoe, because it had mud on the positive tread and that is very significant because the underside of your shoe – the negative bits, the grooves – they hold mud, even if you have been in a muddy place and then walked on the streets, they will go on holding mud.”
‘But the positive tread, that is the ridges, they don’t generally have mud on them as soon as you move on to tarmac, or a pavement or a hard surface.
‘And the fact that there was literally a lump of mud which looked the same as the muck that was on the rest of the shoe, that suggested to me that the shoes had walked in to the wood but hadn’t walked out. And it is important.
The pushchair that police allege Neave used to transport her son’s remains was never given to Professor Brown, according to presenter Winifred Robinson.
She said, “He told me that was the one instance in his tenure when the evidence was ignored.
The trial this year took place as a consequence of our 2014–2015 review and 2015 re-investigation, according to former assistant chief constable Paul Fullwood, who oversaw the 2015 re-investigation into Rikki’s murder.
‘Rikki’s death and the person responsible for his murder were two things that the evidence from the initial case informed us about, so we were determined to study it all and comprehend what it meant.
This was done while taking into account the forensic developments of the previous three decades and the improved approach presently used in police when investigating major crime.
“This was a brand-new squad, and police has changed dramatically in the last three decades, including the disclosure laws [Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996],” the statement said.
As a fresh team, we are unable to speculate as to why the evidence was overlooked the first time around; nevertheless, we are certain that it would not happen today, and our re-investigation has led to the identification and prosecution of the individual who killed Rikki. giving the family of Rikki the long-overdue justice.
The first investigating police, according to Mr. Fullwood, had a “tunnel vision” emphasis on Neave.
He said that he thought the matter would have been reopened sooner if Neave’s treatment of her kid had not been so harsh.
He said that among the police engaged in the first investigation, there was “always a suspicion” that Neave “may have done it.”
Mother of Rikki was a guest on the most recent episode.
She said that during their days-long questioning with her, “I asked them to attempt to discover my son’s genuine murderer.”
Nobody was aware, until your research, of the police’s handling of scientific data that demonstrated I could not have murdered the man in the manner they eventually claimed in court.
“They have ruined my life,” I said. Just the fact that the truth is now out makes me happy.
“I am just so mad because they had simply had me in their sights and they would not let me go, making stuff up, and I have to live with those stories for the rest of my life,” she said. “I am so delighted that someone’s taken their time to come around and do such a job, to cleanse my reputation.”
In 2016, Watson was detained on suspicion of murder. He was already a repeat offender at that point.
One of his crimes was burning a British Transport Police station in Peterborough on fire.
Watson escaped to Portugal after being granted bail, where he uploaded pictures of himself on the beach.
Despite not possessing a passport, he had bragging rights for leaving the UK in a mobile home.
He eventually became homeless and emailed his probation officer pleading to be flown home.
In the end, Watson was detained in Lisbon and transported back to the UK. He wasn’t charged until the year 2020.
The defendant maintained that he had picked up the youngster during a short meeting on the street on the day of his disappearance, despite DNA evidence connecting him to Rikki’s death.
He said he had raised Rikki so he could see through a fence hole and observe workers digging.
He did, however, also assert that he is unaware of “what the genuine facts are” and that it is “possible” that he did not touch Rikki.
Police were able to prove that the disputed fence was absent in 1994, nonetheless.
RIkki was seen by witnesses being escorted into the woods by Watson one hour before to the student’s death.
Additionally, he had been accused of sexually abusing a five-year-old classmate of Rikki months before.
He described to his mother an imagined radio broadcast of a two-year-old stolen, murdered, and dumped in a dyke days before the murder.
During his trial, the jury also learned that he had a “grotesque fascination” in killing children.
Andrew Bailey, the killer’s half-brother, remembered how Watson had often gone to Rikki’s house.
Watson’s first assertion that he had never met the youngster was refuted by this evidence.
After the jury deliberated for 36 hours, Watson was found guilty of murder.