Rikki Neave: James Watson jailed for at least 15 years over schoolboy’s murder in 1994

Rikki Neave was 6 years old when he was found dead in woodland near his home in 1994

Child-killer James Watson, 41, has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years for murdering six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave in 1994.

James Watson was 13 when he lured schoolboy Rikki to woods near his home in Peterborough and strangled him to fulfil a “morbid fantasy” he had told his mother about three days before.

He stripped Rikki and posed his naked body in a star shape for sexual gratification, deliberately “exhibiting” him near a children’s woodland den.

James Watson has been given a life sentence with minimum of 15 years for Rikki Neave’s murder.

Rikki’s murder was among the most high-profile cold cases on police files until Watson’s DNA was identified on the victim’s clothes following a re-examination of the case two decades later.


Mother-of-four Ruth Neave was cleared of her son’s murder in 1996 but was jailed for seven years after admitting child cruelty – a conviction she is reported to be considering challenging, many years after her release.

She did not attend court for the sentencing hearing.

What did Rikki’s mum say?

In a witness statement, read on her behalf, she said: “Like stones dropping in a pond, it (the murder) has rippled out far and wide.

“Rikki’s murder left a massive hole in our lives and in our hearts

“I miss him so much that it feels like I have had my heart ripped out.”


Rebecca Maria Harvey, Rikki’s eldest sister, broke down as she addressed the court.

She said: “Although I was the eldest, it wasn’t like that as he would look after me.

“Losing Rikki was like losing the other half of me.”

Police tape cordoning off the woods next to the Welland Estate in Peterborough, near to where Rikki Neave’s body was found.

What did the judge say about the length of sentence?

At the Old Bailey, judge, Mrs Justice McGowan, said: “Rikki was a child too willing to trust and engage with strangers.


“He never had the chance to be happy and lead a normal and fulfilling life. That opportunity was denied to him by his murder.

Addressing Watson, but not using his name, she said: “After all these years of living your life you finally get your comeuppance, and Rikki Lee Harvey finally gets justice.”

Mrs Justice McGowan said the law meant Watson had to be handed a term relevant to his age at the time of the offence.

She said: “The current minimum term for an adult convicted of this crime would have a starting point of at least 30 years.

“All murders committed by persons under 18 have the same starting point of 12 years, but that must be adjusted to reflect a significant increase for all the circumstances in this case.


“The sentence I impose is detention for life at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and I set the minimum term at 15 years.”

He will serve the full 15 years – less the more than two years spent in custody awaiting trial – before he is considered for release by the Parole Board.

The judge said there were “mercifully” few examples of children as young as 13 being convicted of murder.

She said the infamous case of child-killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson offered “limited assistance” in sentencing Watson.

This article will continue to be updated