Who killed Rikki? Mother of murdered six-year-old calls for police to reopen case
12:04 31 January 2014
Nearly two decades on from what was one of the most harrowing murders in this region’s recent history the fact of the matter is that no-one has ever been convicted over the death of an innocent schoolboy.
"“We have examined the information passed to us, however there is insufficient evidence to re-open the investigation.”"
Six-year-old Rikki Neave’s body was discovered naked and spread-eagled in woodland off Eye Road, Peterborough, in 1994.
His mother Ruth Neave was convicted by a jury of child cruelty in 1996, but cleared of his murder.
Almost 20 years on she has today broken a long silence in a bid to urge Cambridgeshire Police to reopen the case and find his killer.
She said: “I am treated as a murderer and it has to stop. I want someone to takes me seriously and help me to catch those who did murder my son. I am not going away until I get justice for Rikki.”
Rikki was reported missing on November 28, 1994, sparking a huge search by police and members of the public.
He was found dead the following day just 500 yards from his home in Welland after being strangled with a ligature.
His mother, who was married to criminal and drug abuser Dean Neave at the time, was charged with Rikki’s murder six months later, but unanimously cleared of murder by a jury. She was jailed for seven years after the court heard a catalogue of allegations of child cruelty.
Years on she has remarried and is living in a small Cambridgeshire flat, but she says the memory of her son’s murder will never leave her.
While she readily admits to making many mistakes in her care for Rikki and her three other children, she claims that does not mean she murdered him.
She and her husband of four years, Gary, say they have pieced together hundreds of pages of witness statements and evidence which they insist justifies the re-opening of the investigation.
Throughout last year they have repeatedly requested Cambridgeshire Police conduct a ‘cold case’ review, but this has been rejected on the grounds of “insufficient evidence to reopen the investigation”.
The couple say the decision to go public with their campaign came after two police officers explained to them late last year that unless fresh evidence was produced the case would not be re-investigated.
Next month will be the 19th anniversary of Rikki’s cremation – and the following month would have been his 26th birthday.
“The murderer has got away with it, but I believe police could use modern day forensics and bring him, her or them to justice,” she said.
“I will never stop until the day they are jailed. I have lost my son and 20 years later his murderer remains at large. I am not the murderer, never was and never could have been.”
She also claims there are several discrepancies in the evidence gained by initial officers investigating the case.
She insists she was urged by her lawyers to “plead guilty to neglect and cruelty, so the prosecution could not say I killed Rikki through neglect”.
Police previously carried out a review of the case nine years ago. In 2011, Rikki’s death was listed by the force as one of 10 unsolved murders in the county, but stated there was “no active investigation” into the case.
At the time of Rikki’s death, Mrs Neave had split from the youngster’s father Trevor Harvey after seven years and had married petty criminal and drug abuser Dean Neave in 1991 and they had moved from March to Welland.
She was arrested in Chatteris on January 19, 1995 and appeared before Peterborough magistrates 11 days later accused of cruelty towards Rikki.
The youngster’s funeral was held in King’s Lynn in February 1995 and in May his mother was charged with murder.
Dean Neave (36) later died in a car crash in October 1999 when his vehicle careered off the road and plunged into a water-filled dyke.
A police spokesman said: “We have examined the information passed to us, however there is insufficient evidence to re-open the investigation.”
The events surrounding Rikki’s death fused into a line of inquiry that led police to build up a case that equated allegations of neglect with the contention that she had also committed murder.
Today she may be crippled with arthritis and in need of constant care (her husband has taken early retirement to look after her full time) a determination remains to win the right to have the murder investigation re-opened.
Last summer she called at a police station on the outskirts of Cambridge to begin the campaign to have the case re-opened and later two detectives, DCI Martin Brunning and Det Con Andrea Warren, visited the couple at their flat.
She began spelling out her concerns to both officers.
She claimed detectives at the time seized on minutiae and used innocuous findings to build the case against her quoting an issue about black magic and the occult as an example.
“There was talk of Rikki being laid out naked in some form of sacrificial ritual and because they ‘found’ things in my home this was so called ‘evidence’ against me,” she said. “I did not think Tarot card reading and having books about people who murder was an issue but it became the main issue at the trial.”
She has asked police for the photos of Rikki’s dead body so she can see for herself and for the first time how he was found.
“At the time I was shown a picture of my son where he was found but only for a few seconds because I was so upset by it. I threw it down but now I have asked detectives if I can see it again because I want to know what it was about him being laid out in that way.”
She also claims the time of Rikki’s death has never been ascertained.
The couple claim that during the meeting officers said there was no scientific way of pin-pointing an exact time and the only conclusive statement was Rikki “had been laid in that position soon after death.”
They claim a police constable said in evidence he had searched the area of woodland (where Rikki was found the following day) at 7pm on the Monday night and discovered nothing.
When police searched again at midday the following day (Tuesday) Rikki’s body was found within two minutes.
The couple say that since Rikki was reported missing by his mum at 6pm on the Monday and the wood where his body was found was searched an hour after that, then his mum could not possibly have put it there since police and neighbours were then with her throughout the night.
He told police: “It proves then that moving a body in and around the estate was near impossible in the gaps you are alleging. Ruth is innocent with all the time gaps – she wouldn’t have been able to put Rikki there?”
In a letter to chief constable Simon Parr last December Ruth Neaves said “though I was found not guilty of murder it seems to me that you have failed in many respects”.
She goes on to claim that:
- Police never took notice of two boys spotted in that area at that time and mentioned in newspaper reports.
- There was a report of another young boy being assaulted a few months earlier in the same area “but this was neither investigated properly or the possible links to Rikki’s death considered”.
- She said social services lost numerous files concerning her and her family’s background and this only came to light after Rikki’s death. She believes they are relevant to any inquiry into Rikki’s death.
- A decision to re-open the case was considered in 2005 but she says she was never contacted even though her solicitor had been informed and it was only from talking to a friend she found out that inquiries were ongoing.
She added: “Because of advances in DNA testing I want the pair of Rikki’s socks still in the hands of police to be checked with the national DNA data base.
“Advances in obtaining fingerprints mean a partial fingerprint can be lifted and checked against that same database. I was told it was not possible to do it but maybe today it is. All I ask is for justice for my son and answers to the questions I am asking.”