Child killer who strangled six-year-old to death in 1994 finally jailed for life

A ‘fantasist monster’ who strangled six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave to death in 1994 has finally been brought to justice and sentenced to life in prison – serving at least 15 years.

Appearing in court today in a light, short-sleeved shirt, dark tie and trousers, the judge told James Watson he must serve a minimum of 15 years.

He was sentenced for the age he was at the time of the murder.

Watson, 41, was just 13 on November 28, 1994 when he lured young Rikki into some woods in Peterborough before murdering him.

The twisted killer strangled Rikki using a ligature or anorak collar before stripping him naked and “exhibiting” in a star shape for his own sexual gratification.

Watson had told his mum about the “morbid fantasy” just three days prior.

He was found guilty in April this year at the Old Bailey in London following a crucial DNA breakthrough in 2016 linking him to Rikki’s discarded clothes.

Watson has previously been convicted for sexual assault, stealing cars and setting fire to a British Transport Police station.

Initially, police suspected Rikki’s mother Ruth Neave killed her own son, but she was acquitted after a trial in 1996.

She previously admitted to a series of child cruelty offences against the six-year-old.

In a statement read out at today’s sentencing, Neave said: “I know I smacked him when he was naughty, but I hated it. I could not tell him off without.

“Yes I used to shout at him and swear, but that never killed him, did it?

“I had my children snatched out of my arms in the middle of the night because the police were so adamant that I had killed Rikki and would then kill my daughters.

“I feel dead inside, he was the only son I had.”

Following 36 hours and 31 minutes of jury deliberation, Watson was found guilty of murder in April.

Watson was back in the Old Bailey today when Mrs Justice McGowan sentenced him to life.