The sister of a murdered six-year-old boy said “little children will now be safe” after his killer was found guilty of the murder, 28 years after her brother’s body was found.
James Watson, now aged 41, was just 13 years old when he lured Rikki Neave to woods near his home in Peterborough in November 1994.
Rochelle Neave, now 30, was three-years-old when her big brother was murdered.
she told The Independent that her family can now rest after years of fighting for justice.
“I cried my eyes out when I saw the verdict the police texted me straight away,” Ms Neave said.
“We’ve been waiting so many years for this, all these little boys are now safe from him. Rikki can now rest in peace.
“We can move forward with our lives, it’s taken years, so many sleepless nights and grieving for him, I will always grieve for him. We didn’t get along all the time but siblings don’t, he was such a caring soul.”
Ms Neave said the family felt let down by the system, which initially found insufficient evidence to convict the killer in 1994 before the case was reopened in 2014 when DNA from Rikki’s clothes pointed to Watson.
“My brother hasn’t had that chance,” Ms Neave said. “He would have been a dad by now, been to college, he didn’t get a chance in life – I’m glad the police pursued it.”
A jury deliberated for 36 hours and 31 minutes to convict Watson following an 11-week trial at the Old Bailey.
Ms Neave said she feared there would be a mistrial but was thankful the jury came to their verdict adding “the evidence says it all”.
Following the verdict, former Assistant Chief Constable Paul Fullwood, who led the cold case, said Watson is “a fantasist, a dangerous individual, and a compulsive liar”.
Mr Fullwood said: “All the way through this, it’s been a monumental series of challenges. But as far as we’re concerned, we’ve got the right person responsible for the dreadful, dreadful murder of that little boy Rikki Neave.
“Hopefully, we can bring some justice for his family… and also make sure that we put a dangerous individual in prison.”
Rikki was described as “so loving, so caring”.
She said it was a “victory” that Watson had been found guilty of murder “because he thought he’d got away with it for that many years and thought we were just going to go away and roll under the table”.
Ms Neave, who wasn’t in court today, said she will be at Watson’s sentencing and hopes he receives a punishment that will help him understand “the pain he put people through”.
She added that her brother’s case has highlighted the importance of teaching children about the warning signs of abuse so they know how to respond when these things occur.
“This guy has been walking around for years, how many other children has he done this to? He could have touched children inappropriately,” she said. “I hope he learns something from his sentencing of him.”
Watson will be sentenced as if he were a teenager, meaning he will receive a life sentence but the starting point for the minimum term is 12 years.