James Watson was a ‘dangerous fantasy and compulsive liar’

James Watson, 41-years-old, was on Thursday, found guilty of the murder of six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave in 1994.

The verdict almost 28 years since the child’s naked body was found in the woods a few minutes walk from his home in Redmile Walk, Welland, Peterborough, in November 1994.

The 41-year-old, was found guilty by majority verdict at the Old Bailey and will be sentenced on at a later date.

According to the police, Watson is “a fantasist, a dangerous individual, and a compulsive liar.”

He came from a broken home in Peterborough and was treated by social services as a “vulnerable child” from March 1993.

That year, he was interviewed about a complaint that he had sexually assaulted a five-year-old boy.

Then aged 12, Watson denied it and no further action was taken, although years later he admitted it was “just two boys playing with each other’s penises”.

In April 1994, Watson told a family member he was physically assaulted by his father, James Watson senior, who he lived with on the Welland Estate.

On being taken into care, he stayed with foster mother Molly Donald, who he formed an attachment to.

She found him with a shotgun and felt she could not cope so Watson was sent away again, this time to Woodgate’s children’s home in March, some 20 miles from Peterborough.

Watson frequently played truant from school and would change into civilian clothes, jurors heard.

From enrolling at Walton School in Peterborough to the day of the murder, Watson was marked present on the register 18 times out of a possible 38 school days.

At the age of 13, he became obsessed with the fantasy of strangling a little boy, even telling his mother he had heard a news report about it on the radio.

Three days later, the fantasy came true when he murdered six-year-old Rikki Neave at around midday on 28 November 1994, the prosecution said.

He stripped him naked for his own sexual gratification, “exhibiting” the posed body to be found near a children’s den in the woods, prosecutor John Price QC said.

Rikki Neave died in November 199


Afterwards, Watson became “fascinated” by his own actions and made copious copies of newspaper stories, jurors were told.

He even told teachers that he knew Rikki as the brother of a friend, one of a multitude of lies.

Watson “cursed” the fact he has been seen with Rikki by an elderly lady, leaving him no option but to admit an encounter when police called on 5 December 1994.

Watson’s account was peppered with lies but went unchallenged for more than 20 years as police wrongly pursued Rikki’s mother Ruth.

Meanwhile, care workers noted his bizarre behaviour, masturbating over a children’s clothes catalogue, keeping a dead pheasant in his room, and once allegedly throttling a member of staff with a stocking.

He moved to another care home, and despite knowing he was gay from an early age, formed a relationship with a girl, aged 15.

In 2016, she told police Watson once killed and posed a bird and would strangle her when they had sex in the woods.

Watson clocked up a long list of convictions for petty crimes, including setting fire to a British Transport Police station in Peterborough.

In his evidence, Watson said he would steal cars for “fun” and claimed he felt aggrieved at police because of their role in taking him away from his family.

He also claimed his late father had been a police officer, although Cambridgeshire Police say there is no record of it.

Mr Price told jurors that in the years before his arrest for Rikki’s murder, Watson became forensically aware and adept at dealing with police.

So even before police confirmed his DNA had been identified on Rikki’s clothes, Watson was prepared with another lie, which was to prove his undoing.

Watson, who maintained his connection with Peterborough through his sister Clair and mother Shirley, concocted a fictitious story about lifting Rikki up to look through a hole in a fence to watch diggers.

He did not factor in the determination of police, who established the fence was not there in 1994.

When Watson fled the country, his sister Clair Perna tried to get him travel documents but insisted they were only to help him return to Britain.

Ms Perna told jurors their late father had been a lorry driver, but quickly added that she thought he was a police officer before she was born.

She said her brother would never hurt a child, but it was in the dark about his admitted sexual activity with a five-year-old.

Unbeknownst to her, for 27 years Watson had also lived with the biggest secret of all – Rikki’s murder.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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