Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The “dangerous fanatic and compulsive liar” who murdered Rikki Neave

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James Watson, 41, was found guilty Thursday of the 1994 murder of six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave.

The verdict comes almost 28 years since the child’s naked body was found in the woods a few minutes’ walk from his home in Redmile Walk, Welland, Peterborough, in November 1994.

The 41-year-old was found majority guilty at the Old Bailey and will be sentenced at a later date.

According to police, Watson is “a fanatic, a dangerous person and a compulsive liar”.

He came from a dysfunctional home in Peterborough and was treated as a ‘vulnerable child’ by Social Services from March 1993.

That year he was interviewed over a complaint that he had sexually assaulted a five-year-old boy.

At the age of 12, Watson denied this and no further action was taken, although years later he admitted that it was “just two boys playing with each other’s penises”.

In April 1994, Watson told a family member that he had been physically assaulted by his father, James Watson Sr., with whom he lived on the Welland Estate.

When he was taken into care, he stayed with foster mother Molly Donald, with whom he developed a bond.

She found him with a shotgun and felt she couldn’t handle it, so Watson was sent away again, this time in March at Woodgate’s children’s home, about 20 miles from Peterborough.

Watson frequently played truant and dressed in civilian clothes, the jury heard.

From enrollment at the Walton School in Peterborough to the day of the murder, Watson was marked as present on the register 18 times out of a possible 38 school days.

At the age of 13 he became obsessed with the fantasy of strangling a young boy and even told his mother he heard a report on the radio about it.

Three days later, the fantasy came true when he murdered six-year-old Rikki Neave around noon on November 28, 1994, prosecutors said.

He stripped him naked for his own sexual gratification and “displayed” the posed body, which was found near a children’s den in the woods, prosecutor John Price QC said.

Thereafter, Watson became “fascinated” by his own actions and made numerous copies of newspaper articles, the jury was told.

He even told the teachers that he knew Rikki as a friend’s brother, one of many lies.

Watson “cursed” the fact that he was seen with Rikki by an elderly lady, leaving him no choice but to admit an encounter when police called on December 5, 1994.

Watson’s account was riddled with lies but went unchallenged for more than 20 years when police unfairly prosecuted Rikki’s mother Ruth.

Meanwhile, caregivers noticed his bizarre behavior, including masturbating over a children’s clothing catalogue, keeping a dead pheasant in his room and once allegedly strangling a staff member with a stocking.

He moved to another foster home, and despite knowing early on that he was gay, he began dating a girl when he was 15.

In 2016, she told police Watson once killed and caught a bird and would strangle her if they had sex in the woods.

Watson had a long list of petty offense convictions, including the burning down of a British Transport Police station in Peterborough.

In his evidence, Watson said he would steal cars for “fun” and claimed he was offended by the police’s role in taking him away from his family.

He also claimed his late father was a police officer, although Cambridgeshire Police say there are no records of this.

Mr Price told jurors that in the years leading up to his arrest for Rikki’s murder, Watson had become forensically aware and adept at dealing with the police.

Even before police confirmed his DNA had been identified on Rikki’s clothing, Watson was armed with yet another lie designed to prove his downfall.

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