The mother of the murdered schoolboy Rikki Neave has said she hopes to challenge her 26-year sentence for child molestation when a man is finally convicted of the murder of his son in 1994.
In an exclusive interview, Ruth Neave, who was acquitted of the murder of her six-year-old son in 1996 but jailed for child molestation, said she was advised to plead guilty to all offenses – including murder – by her lawyer and dismiss all charges. .
Neave has lived for nearly 30 years under suspicion that she “got away” with her son’s murder – a suspicion that plagued her throughout. this year’s trial against 41-year-old James Watson for the murder when she was once again forced to defend herself at the witness stand.
Neave and her husband, Gary Rogers, say Watson’s conviction is not the end of this journey – which Neave says harmed her health, relationships and reputation – and they have decided to try to overturn the child abuse verdict.
During Watson’s trial, it remained the prosecution’s case that Neave was guilty of “a wide range of serious, deliberate abuse” and that “the negligence put such a young person at serious risk”. The court was told that Rikki was on the “risk register”.
While Neave’s children continue to distance themselves from her, she and Rogers both claim that it was the authorities’ fault that drove the police’s pursuit of her for Rikki’s murder – a case that has been called a “fantastic hypothesis” by a senior officer.
At a cafe in Great Yarmouth, where Neave and Rogers are on vacation between Watson’s conviction in April and the sentencing on June 24 at Old Bailey, Neave seems exhausted. She suffers from arthritis, diabetes, anxiety and depression, all of which have been exacerbated by the ordeal.
Wearing sunglasses throughout the interview, her broken elbow is held in a sling and a crutch is placed against the wall. “It’s taken a hell of a lot out of me,” she says. “I wish I could be happy, I wish I could be happy – but I just can not.”
Before she had children, Neave’s life was turbulent. She was in care from the time she was two. She remembers “boys trying to send you out to prostitute yourself” when they are in an orphanage. “I had none of that,” she adds.
Her own parents, with whom she had not lived for some time, took their own lives in a suicide pact. As a 17-year-old, she had her first child with Trevor Harvey, who she also wanted to have Rikki with. Harvey, who has since died, was violent towards her and did not want a child’s responsibility, she says.
“Rikki was such a lovely little boy,” she says.
Ruth later met Dean Neave, who she says was a police informant who was subjected to repeated death threats. He has since died. In the early 90’s, they were rehoused on the Welland property in Peterboroughwhich without her knowing it was a notoriously violent estate with significant social problems.
On November 28, 1994, Rikki was at home with her mother. He left home in the morning and never returned. He was found dead the next day in a nearby forest, naked and deliberately posed by the killer in a star shape.
About six months later, Neave was charged with murder and child abuse. She admits that her life was “chaotic” and that she “tasted the kids”. But she denies the details of the atrocities: sending Rikki out at night to buy drugs, starve him, torture him.
An allegation said she had been seen hanging Rikki over a bridge at his ankles, an accusation she denies and disputes whether it was physically possible.
Why did people make these claims? “Fifteen minutes of fame,” Neave says. “A lot of people made money on it, they even turned around and sold pictures of my son to the press.”
“It was malicious,” she adds.
But why plead guilty? “I was told by my lawyer to plead guilty,” she says. “I refused to plead guilty to the murder. I pleaded guilty to the negligence because I thought it was just a smack. “
Neave says she understood she would stand for a community sentence for the atrocities, and she was crushed when the judge handed down a seven-year sentence. When she was released in 2000 and returned to Cambridgeshire, she was daily confronted with suspicion. “I had to argue, I had to fight, I was not the person, I was never that person,” she says.
She says she has been unable to work and the relationship has also been difficult. “Usually I do not tell people, or I do not tell them the whole story, because it is quite difficult; it was my baby I wanted to talk about, ”she says.
In 2008, she met Rogers. He promised her that if she would demand the police reopen the case, he would support her.
And he lived up to that promise. He denies it has become an obsession, but he knows the matter carefully. In 2013, he helped Neave get the original files from her former lawyer – 13 boxes, each containing eight to 12 binders full of papers – and has read each one.
In the case file are official police records of six reported sexual assaults on children on Welland property over a three-year period before Rikki was murdered.
“They are extremely ill,” Rogers said, adding that he believed that if the reports had been followed up, they could have led to Watson, who the court heard had in his journal an allegation that he had touched a five-year-old .
Rogers says he found dozens of errors among the statements. In 2014, he gave a presentation to the then new head of a major crime unit for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, Paul Fullwood, who in turn decided to reopen the case.
Using techniques not available at the time of the initial investigation, tests on Rikki’s clothing found the DNA from Watson, who was 13 years old at the time of the disappearance.
That was in 2016; it still took six years to arrest, target and convict Watson. “It’s been pure hell,” Neave says. “We lived it, and we breathed it.”
Watson was found guilty last month despite the defense’s attempts to direct the suspicion against Neave, which she calls “a lawsuit in a lawsuit”.
“He’s a monster, a sexual predator and a monster,” Neave says, adding that it makes her “feel sick” when she knew Watson had evaded justice for nearly 30 years while the eye of suspicion remained firmly aimed at her.
The couple now plan to approach the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to see if the verdict on child abuse can be appealed.
Rogers says he has uncovered evidence that reveals serious flaws from both police and social services. He has previously complained to the Independent Police Conduct Office (IOPC), but it no longer took it.
“What I want to say is that it’s all about Rikki, that’s all it’s ever been about,” Neave says. “He would have been 34 now. I often sit and wonder how many children he would have, what work he would do.”
Through his sunglasses, Neave looks out of the cafe window. “I’ll never get over losing him,” she says.