United Kingdom

Rikki Neave murder trial: Mother of strangled six-year-old boy ‘had an interest in murders and unsolved crime’, court hears

The mother of a six-year-old boy who was strangled and then placed, naked, into a star shape was allegedly writing a murder story and had an interest in witchcraft, a court has been told.

Ruth Neave stood trial for her son Rikki Neave’s murder in November 1994, but was cleared.

The case remained unsolved for 20 years until the case was reviewed.

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James Watson (right) is on trial for Rikki Neave’s murder

As part of the review, police allegedly found the DNA of James Watson, who was 13 at the time of the killing, on Rikki’s clothes, which had been dumped in a wheelie bin, and he is now on trial for the boy’s murder.

Prosecutors have told the Old Bailey that Watson allegedly launched a “surprise attack” on Rikki Neave and strangled him with his own jacket on 28 November 1994.

He then allegedly stripped the boy’s body and posed him in a “star shape” in woodland, before dumping his clothes in a nearby bin.

The court has also earlier heard Watson, now aged 40, was seen with the victim on the day he went missing and was spoken to by police as a witness at the time.

During cross-examination of one of the prosecution witnesses on Tuesday, Martin Reed, giving evidence, was asked by the defence if he was aware that his former friend Ms Neave “had an interest in the occult and witchcraft”.

He replied: “I knew she had an interest in it ever since I have known her.

“She was talking about Tarot and different things like that. It’s all vague recollection.

“I cannot really remember anything specific.”

Asked if he was aware she “had written a book, or started a book, about the perfect murder”, he said: “No, this is the first I have heard about it.”

An image supplied by the Crown Prosecution Service of cards and toys in the clothes Rikki Neave was wearing when he was killed
Image:
An image supplied by the Crown Prosecution Service of cards and toys in the clothes Rikki Neave was wearing when he was killed

On the subject of whether he knew she had a “great deal of books and magazines at her house about murder and solved crimes”, he said: “I knew she had an interest in murders and unsolved crime, yes, because of the books, [and] theories on certain cases which she discussed.”

Before the cross examination, Mr Reed had told prosecutor John Price QC about Ms Neave’s emotional state, saying: “At the time, she was very, very upset but she swung from moody to angry to tearful. It was just a wide range of emotions.”

Asked why, he said: “The fact that it actually happened – that her little boy had been taken.”

In a statement heard by the jury, social worker Deborah Lawson detailed a series of visits to Ms Neave and her children in 1994.

She said Ms Neave was seen “ranting and raving” but “would never physically hurt” her children.

She saw her “screaming and swearing” at Rikki for trying to steal some chocolate and once Ms Neave had punched a wall to “intimidate” Ms Lawson, narrowly missing her nose, the court heard.

Eleven days before Rikki’s death, Ms Neave told Ms Lawson about a “murder story which she had been typing”, jurors were told.

Undated handout photo issued by Crown Prosecution Service of the clothes Rikki Neave was wearing when he was killed and were recovered from a bin near to the spot where his body was found. Issue date: Thursday January 20, 2022.
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Clothing Rikki Neave was wearing when he was killed

Ms Neave allegedly handed her a draft and told her: “You might enjoy reading this but it might keep you awake – it’s a horror story.”

Ms Lawson said she never read the papers.

Kelly Nuttall, who was 13 when she lived next door to Ms Neave on the Welland Estate, said she “was a total and utter disgrace of a mother” and was “evil” and would hit her children.

She said Ms Neave once said she felt like “killing” Rikki.

But Ms Nuttall said on the day the boy went missing, she spent much of the day with Ms Neave and never saw the youngster.

Ms Nuttall was asked about telling police, the day after Rikki was found, that she moved his dead body for someone she was “scared of” and was told to “spreadeagle the body to look like there was Satanism or witchcraft involved”.

She told the court it was not true and she only said it at the time to seek “attention”.

Other witnesses have said they saw Rikki on the estate on the morning of the disappearance.

Watson, of no fixed address, has denied murder.

The trial continues.

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