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A TEEN murdered a six-year-old boy and posed his naked body in a “star shape” in woodland before being charged 27 years later, a court heard today.
James Watson was just 13 when he allegedly strangled Rikki Neave in a “surprise attack” just five minutes from his home in Peterborough, Cambs, in 1994.
James Watson has been charged with murder
The Old Bailey was told that Rikki’s mother, Ruth Neave, later stood trial for her murder but was acquitted, leading to a 27-year cold-case mystery.
Watson, now 40, had been seen with the young man the day he disappeared and police spoke to him at the time, jurors heard today.
But he told “a lot of lies”, he claimed he didn’t know Rikki and didn’t mention “physical contact”, he told himself.
The court was told that it was only when his DNA showed up on Rikki’s clothing that he was charged with murder more than 20 years later.
Opening the trial, prosecutor John Price QC said that Ruth had called 999 to report her son missing on the night of November 28, 1994.
Rikki’s body was discovered the next day by a police officer in a forest near the Peterborough housing estate where he lived.
“He had been deliberately posed by the killer, in the shape of a star, with his arms outstretched and his legs wide apart.
“There was no sign of Rikki’s clothing. But poignantly perched on a leaf, just 18 inches from the left hand was a small white shirt button.”
The court was told that Rikki’s missing school uniform was later found in a wheelie bin some 150 yards away.
His shoelaces were still tied, his shirt was missing three buttons, and his jacket contained his underwear, socks, and some toys, she told herself.
Jurors also heard that he had stamped marks on the front of his neck that could have been caused by the zipper of his coat, suggesting that he was likely attacked from behind.
Rikki “vulnerable” was known to social services and had been placed on the “risk register” at the time of his death.
His mother was charged with murder and child cruelty six months after her son’s brutal death, the court was told.
She admitted cruelty to Rikki and her two sisters, but she denied it and was acquitted of murder in 1996.
Jurors were told the “mistake” was due to the amount of weight police gave to Rikki’s sightings at the time he disappeared despite evidence showing he was dead.
Price said: “Much of this reliable evidence was acquired during the early investigation, but its true meaning and importance were either misunderstood or ignored.
“This fundamental error diverted the focus of the investigation. She took him away from where he should have been.”
The case was reopened in 2015 and evidence on duct tape from Rikki’s clothing showed a DNA match to Watson.
The court heard that he was seen with Rikki on the day he disappeared and the police spoke to him as a witness.
A young man had also been seen leaving a cul-de-sac where Rikki’s clothes were later recovered, the jury was told.
At the time, Watson was “showing a grotesque interest in the subject of child murder,” he told himself.
Supposedly, the teachers also noted a “conspicuous concern over the extensive reports on the fate of Rikke Neave”.
Watson, with no fixed address, denies the murder.
The trial continues.