Family aid worker Bryony Swift said that when she heard mum Ruth talk about killing Rikki Neave it was something she had heard lots of parents say at times of stress and that ‘it felt like those were just angry words at the time and things were okay again ‘
The mum of murdered schoolboy Rikki Neave told a family aid worker “if something was not done with him she would kill him” the day before he went missing, a court heard today.
A family aid worker told the Old Bailey it was something she had heard lots of parents say at times of stress and “it felt like those were just angry words at the time.”
Rikki’s body was found in woodland in Peterborough, Cambs., on November 29, 1994. The six-year-old was strangled, stripped naked and left in a “star pose”.
Rikki lived on the Welland Estate in Peterborough with his mum, three-year-old sister Rochelle and baby sister Sheradyn.
James Watson, who would have been 13 at the time, is now 40 and standing trial at the Old Bailey for Rikki’s murder.
Watson was arrested after a “definitive match” was found between his DNA profile and samples taken from Rikki’s clothing after a new investigation was opened in 2015.
In 1996, Rikki’s mum Ruth Neave stood trial at Northampton Crown Court for his murder and was cleared by the jury.
Family aid worker Bryony Swift, previously Smith, dealt with the Neave family in 1994.
Wearing a dark jumper with red and white patterns, Bryony gave evidence at the Old Bailey today via video link.
Bryony said in court that she visited the Neave family twice a week between May and August 1994 and then regularly again in November the same year.
The visits stopped in September and October because Ruth “felt she could cope on her own,” the jurors heard.
Bryony said she had noted that she was happy with the situation and that “Ruth was trying hard with the family and coping fairly well.”
The first contact after the break came on November 6, and from that point, onwards visits resumed regularly, the court heard.
Junior prosecutor Nathan Rasiah asked: “Did you observe how she dealt with Rikki?”
Bryony replied: “At times she would get quite a cross with him. Her parenting wasn’t consistent.
“It was a difficult situation because mum was not always good at parenting as she was at other times.
“She also hadn’t had good parenting herself, so she hadn’t had a lot to draw on to guide her.”
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Ruth would deal with Rikki’s behavior by making him stand facing a wall, the court heard.
Bryony, who said she had witnessed this, recorded: “He would put his hands on his head and at other times he would bang the wall with his fists.”
Mr Rasiah also asked if there were occasions Ruth would restrain Rikki “by wrapping her arms and legs around him from behind?”
Bryony confirmed this and, when questioned further about it by the defense barrister later, said: “He was…quite wriggly and jiggly to start with, not liking it but then he would start to calm down.
“It would last until the child submitted and apologized.”
The prosecutor then went on to ask about Dean Neave, ex-husband to Ruth and stepdad to Rikki.
He asked: “Do you recall a conversation where Ruth described wanting to get back with her husband Dean but described Rikki as the ‘stumbling block’ because Dean and Rikki didn’t get on together?”
Bryony told jurors during the cross-examination: “I understood that as Rikki was in the way really of them getting back together, making it even more difficult.
“I think she probably blamed Rikki for the situation she was in in a lot of ways.”
The prosecutor then asked about a series of occasions in November wherein Ruth allegedly vented her increasing frustration with Rikki to her family aid worker.
On 10 November, Bryony said the mum had told her she “could not cope” with Rikki and asked about him going into care, jurors were told.
Three days later, Bryony described Ruth as being “at the end of her tether with Rikki”, the court heard.
The day before Rikki’s disappearance on November 27, Ruth had told Bryony she “had had enough of him”, the family aid worker told the court.
Mr Rasiah asked: “Did Ruth say if something wasn’t done with Rikki she would kill him?”
Bryony replied: “She did yes.”
Bryony said that later the same day tensions had calmed significantly, and “they seemed more content with each other even Rikki and Ruth.”
Sally Hobson, junior defense counsel, asked the family aid worker about her reactions to the statements Ruth made about her son.
Bryony said: “I think I was always concerned about Rikki and Ruth’s relationship and it was almost a norm in that family but yes of course it concerned me.”
When asked about hearing Ruth talking about killing Rikki, she said during evidence: “I have heard many many parents say that at times of stress.
“All information that I recorded went to the social worker and I would have regular phone contact and go into the office, so they were well aware of everything.
“But the situation calmed down later on that day and if it hadn’t it may have had a very different outcome to what I did and didn’t do.
“However because it settled it felt like those were just angry words at the time and things were okay again.”
Watson, of no fixed address, denies murdering Rikki between November 28 and 29, 1994.
The trial continues.