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Rikki Neave, 6, murdered by teenager who posed naked body in 'star shape', court hears
18 January 2022, 20:49
A teenager strangled Rikki Neave, 6, in a "surprise attack" 27 years ago, stripping the clothes off his body and posing him in a "star shape" in woodland, a court has heard.
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James Watson, now 40, was aged just 13 when he allegedly launched a "surprise attack" on Rikki Neave, strangling him with his own jacket on November 28 1994, the Old Bailey heard.
Watson was seen with the victim on the day he went missing and was spoken to by police as a witness at the time, jurors at the Old Bailey were told on Tuesday.
He went on to develop a "grotesque" interest in child murder, jurors were told.
More than 20 years later, Watson's DNA was allegedly found on Rikki's clothes.
The six-year-old's mother Ruth Neave had been wrongly accused of his murder but was cleared by a jury.
At the start of Watson's Old Bailey trial, jurors heard a recording of Ms Neave's 999 call to report her son missing on the evening of November 28 1994.
Just after 12pm the next day, Rikki's body was found by a police officer in woodland near the housing estate in Peterborough where he lived.
Prosecutor John Price QC said it was a place where Rikki and his friends used to play and was just a five-minute walk from his home.
Mr Price said: "He had been strangled. The body was naked. It was lying on the ground, flat on its back.
"It had been deliberately posed by the killer, in a star shape, with outstretched arms, and his legs placed wide apart.
"There was no sign of any of Rikki's clothing. But perched poignantly on a leaf, just 18 inches from the left hand was a single, small, white shirt button."
The following morning, another officer found the boy's missing school uniform in a wheelie bin around 150 yards away.
Mr Price said the laces on his black shoes were still tied, his underwear and socks were rolled up in his jacket and three small white buttons were missing from his shirt.
In the right-hand pocket of the jacket were two small plastic toys and some cards.
Ms Neave was charged with murder and child cruelty just six months after his death, the court heard.
While she admitted cruelty, she always denied having anything to do with Rikki's murder and was unanimously acquitted at Northampton Crown Court in October 1996.
Prosecutor John Price QC told jurors it was the correct verdict as she could not have done it.
Mr Price suggested the "error" was largely down to incorrect weight given to sightings of Rikki at a time when reliable evidence showed he was already dead.
Mr Price said: "Much of this reliable evidence was itself acquired during the first investigation, but its true significance and importance was misunderstood or ignored.
"This fundamental error deflected the focus of attention of the investigation. It took it away from where it should have been."
Rikki's murder remained a mystery until 2015 when the cold case investigation was opened, jurors heard.
Watson was arrested on suspicion of murder after adhesive tapings from Rikki's clothes were examined and a DNA match to Watson was allegedly made.
Watson, of no fixed address, has denied murder.