Ruth Neave: who is mother of murdered schoolboy Rikki Neave, why was she a suspect, and where is she now?

The murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave and the subsequent investigation is set to feature in the Channel 4 documentary series 24 Hours in Police Custody

Schoolboy Rikki Neave was killed in March 1994. (Credit: PA/handout)Schoolboy Rikki Neave was killed in March 1994. (Credit: PA/handout)
Schoolboy Rikki Neave was killed in March 1994. (Credit: PA/handout)

The murder of six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave shocked the nation in 1994, with the case continuing to shock almost 30 years later.

James Watson was recently convicted of the murder of the young boy, having killed him at only 13-years-old himself.

The convicted killer was not the investigators first suspect though, with Ruth Neave being pinpointed as a target early in the case.

But why was she a suspect and why was she arrested? Here’s everything you need to know.

Schoolboy Rikki Neave was killed in March 1994. (Credit: PA/handout)Schoolboy Rikki Neave was killed in March 1994. (Credit: PA/handout)
Schoolboy Rikki Neave was killed in March 1994. (Credit: PA/handout)

Who is Ruth Neave?

Ruth Neave is the mother of murder schoolboy Rikki Neave.

The mother first reported her son missing at around 6pm on 28 November 1994, after he failed to return from school.

It was later found that Rikki had not attended school that day after eating his breakfast at home and leaving at around 9:30pm.

Around 24 hours later, police informed Ruth that her six-year-old son’s body had been found in a nearby woods.

A post-mortem found that Rikki had died after being strangled by the zipper on his anorak hood.

Why was Ruth Neave arrested?

After an investigation was launched into the murder of the young boy, police arrested Ruth in January 1995 on suspicion of murder and child cruelty.

Police had pinpointed Rikki’s mother as a potential suspect after finding a drawing of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man in her house.

Rikki’s body had been found by detectives laying in a star position, similar to the famous image, leading them to believe that Ruth was involved with the murder.

Prosecutor John Price said: “It was said, as indeed is the case, that in one of its forms, the posture of the image resembles the way her son’s naked body had been posed by his killer.”

James Watson, who would eventually be convicted of the boy’s murder 28 years later, gave police a false account after neighbours said that they had saw him walking with Rikki that morning.

Ruth’s trial took place in 1996, with the jury at Northampton Crown Court acquitting her of murdering her son, however Ruth pleaded guilty to child cruelty charges and was jailed for seven years as a result.

Ruth, who was released in 2000, has maintained that she was coerced into pleading guilty, saying: “I pleaded guilty because I was bullied into it and I did not know what I was pleading guilty to.”

What is Ruth Neave doing now?

Upon being released from prison, Ruth returned to live in Cambridgeshire and met now-husband Gary Rogers.

In 2014, the mother spearheaded a campaign to find Rikki’s killer and urged police to reopen the case.

The police eventually reopened the case and new DNA evidence found on Rikki’s clothing matched that of Watson’s.

Watson was charged witht he murder of Rikki in 2020 and when on trial in February 2022.

The jury at London’s Old Bailey took 36 hours to deliberate before convicting the now 41-year-old for the crime.

James WatsonJames Watson
James Watson

Waston was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years, with Mrs Justice McGowan explaining that he was sentenced to a shorter-than-expected prison term as the crime was committed when he was 13 years old.

Ruth was intending to be present at the sentencing, however she did not attend.

A witness statement from Rikki’s mother was read out instead, with Ruth saying: “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.”

Ruth is reported to be considering an appeal to her seven-year prison sentence for child cruelty.

When is 24 Hours in Police Custody on?

The popular Channel 4 documentary series 24 Hours in Police Custody will feature a two-part series on the arrest of Watson.

Footage from inside the police station following Waston’s arrest will be shown in the espiodes, as well as details in the investigation which led to his conivction.

The show will air on Monday 4 July and Tuesday 5 July at 9pm on Channel 4. Both episode will also be available to watch on catch up on All4 after they have broadcast live.