Rikki Neave murder suspect told sister he 'messed up' by fleeing

Rikki Neave family photos

James Watson, now 40, was 13 when he allegedly strangled six-year-old Rikki Neave (above) and left his naked body in woods near the Welland estate in Peterborough on November 28 1994. - Credit: Archant

The trial of the man accused of murdering Rikki Neave has resumed at the Old Bailey.  

It was postponed for more than a week after three jurors tested positive for Covid.  

When the trial resumed, the court heard of a conservation between James Watson, the man accused of the murder, and his sister. 

Watson told her he “messed up" after leaving Britain while under investigation, jurors were told. 

In April 2016, Watson was arrested on suspicion of Rikki's murder and, after his release, went to stay in Northamptonshire, the court was told. 

Three months later, he left the country with another man in a motorhome and got in touch with his sister, Clair Perna, from France. 

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Ms Perna, 43, said: "He contacted me to say he was in a lot of trouble and he had made a huge mistake." 

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Watson said he had "messed up" by leaving the country, she told jurors. 

She said: "Next time he rang, he said, 'I need help. I'm in more trouble than I imagined and I need to get back to the UK."' 

Ms Perna told Watson he should try to contact a man she knew called Mario in Porto, Portugal. 

She went on to describe liaising with British police while helping her brother apply for travel documents so he could return. 

After being told he would need a passport interview, she said the pair opted for a "second option" of going to an embassy in Portugal. 

Asked if she had told police, Ms Perna said: "I told them that he was going into the embassy. 

"I believe they would have to identify who he was and that would be me with a phone call ... and they would give him emergency travel documents to get home." 

Instead, Ms Perna said she got a call to say her brother had been arrested and confirmed he was being transported back to Britain. 

Earlier, she said she and Watson grew up on the Welland Estate in Peterborough, staying with their father after their parents split up in September 1990. 

She later went to live with her mother while Watson stayed in a care home in March, the court was told. 

Ms Perna denied knowing the Neave family, who also lived on the estate, or visiting them with her half-brother Andrew Bailey. 

Watson asked his mother about a child being found dead in a ditch a few days before Rikki went missing, it has been claimed. 

James Watson

Court sketch of James Watson, 40, standing trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave - Credit: PA Media

Ms Perna denied hearing such a conversation, saying she would have remembered. 

Under cross-examination, Ms Perna said that - contrary to Watson's evidence - their father was a lorry driver, but added: "Before I was born, I believe he was a police officer." 

She said Watson had never spoken to her about his involvement in the Rikki Neave investigation and it came as a "surprise". 

Rikki Neave

Rikki Neave: James Watson is on trial at the Old Bailey for his murder. Watson denies it. - Credit: Archant

In a statement to police in 2016, she asserted she did "not think he is capable of hurting a child". 

She was unaware of an allegation in 1993 that Watson had sexually touched a five-year-old boy, she said. 

On her dealings with Watson after he left the country in 2016, Nathan Rasiah, prosecuting, said: "You were trying to help James evade capture." 

Ms Pera replied: "No." 

Mr Rasiah asserted there were occasions when her half-brother Andrew took both her and Watson to visit the Neave house when Rikki lived there. 

The witness replied: "Never." 

Jurors also heard from a former neighbour of the Neave family who reported a possible sighting of Rikki at around 11.50am on the day of his disappearance. 

Diane Woodward told jurors she found Rikki crying on Redmile Walk and she asked him if he was OK. 

Mr Rasiah referred to her statement of December 1994 in which she said only that the boy she thought "may be" Rikki had his "head down kicking stones about". 

It did not include any detail about her speaking to him. 

Her second statement in 2015 introduced a claim he was wearing a red jumper - although jurors have heard it was not among his clothes later recovered from a bin. 

Mr Rasiah said: "Are you quite clear that's the clothing that the child you saw on November 28 was wearing?" 

She replied: "Yep." 

Mr Rasiah said: "I'm going to suggest that you are mistaken about seeing Rikki Neave on November 28 at around 11.50am or midday." 

Mrs Woodward replied: "I do not agree." 

Watson is accused of strangling the six-year-old and posing his naked body in woods in Peterborough in November 1994. 

The case remained unsolved for more than 20 years until Watson's DNA was allegedly identified on Rikki's discarded clothes. 

Watson, of no fixed address, denies Rikki's murder.  

The trial at the Old Bailey continues.