The trial is underway for a man accused of brutally killing an English boy whose mother was once suspected of the crime.
Rikki Neave was only 6 years old when he disappeared on his way to school on Nov. 28, 1994, according to Cambridgeshire Constabulary. The Worcestershire, England boy was found dead in a wooded area just a five-minute walk from his Peterborough home.
It was determined someone had strangled him to death.
Neave’s mother, Ruth Neave, was charged with his murder in 1995, but she was found not guilty by a jury of her peers, according to the BBC.
The case remained unsolved for the next quarter of a century until police reopened the case in 2015. In 2020, the Cambridgeshire Constabulary announced the arrest of 38-year-old James Watson, who was 13 at the time of Neave’s murder. According to Sky News, authorities said they’d found Watson’s DNA on Rikki Neave’s clothes, which were found dumped in an outdoor trashcan.
Prosecutors allege Watson jumped the boy in a “surprise attack” before strangling the victim with his own jacket. The suspect allegedly removed the boy’s clothes and deliberately positioned him in a star-shaped position, drawing suspicion that it could have been a ritualistic murder, as prosecutors claimed in Ruth Neave’s 1996 trial.
Watson, whose trial started earlier this month, has denied any involvement in the boy’s death. However, the Old Bailey (court) heard that Watson was questioned as a witness during the original investigation.
Another person testified that they had seen Watson with Rikki Neave on the day of the murder.
Watson lived in the same estate as the Neaves and initially admitted to speaking with the child on the morning of the murder, according to the BBC.
During opening statements, Barrister John Price QC told the jury of Watson’s preoccupation with murder as a teenager, according to The Guardian.
“In late November 1994, James Watson was exhibiting a grotesque interest in the subject of child murder generally, including in things he said to his mother,” said Price. “Immediately after the killing, even amidst the widespread local interest, teachers of his noted in him a conspicuous preoccupation with the extensive reporting of the fate of Rikki Neave.”
On Tuesday, a former friend of Rikki’s mother Ruth Neave testified in the Watson trial about the mother’s character, which once set forth the foundation for her 1995 charges.
“I knew she had an interest in [the occult and witchcraft] ever since I have known her,” said Martin Reed.
Days before the child’s death, Ruth Neave was subjected to a series of visits during a children’s welfare investigation, according to Sky News. The social worker on that case testified on Tuesday that Ruth gave her a draft of a “horror story” she’d written about a murder. Neighbors also testified that Ruth was an abusive mother.
Ruth Neave confessed to severely beating her children and burning them with cigarettes, according to a 1996 article from The Spokesman-Review. At the time of the murder, police found books of devil worship and murder in the Neave home. However, a timeline surrounding the child’s death proved to a jury that Ruth Neave could not have committed the crime, according to reports.
Ruth Neave pleaded guilty to cruelty toward Rikki Neave and his sisters but denied having a role in her son’s death, according to The Guardian. She was unanimously acquitted of murder on Oct. 30, 1996.
James Watson’s murder trial is expected to continue for the next several weeks.