‘Pure evil’ killer who murdered boy (6) to carry out ‘morbid fantasy’ as teenager is sentenced to 15 years in prison

A “pure evil” child killer was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 15 years for the murder of vulnerable six-year-old Rikki Neave in 1994.

Ames Watson was 13 years old when he lured the student into a forest near his home in Peterborough and strangled him to perform a “morbid fantasy” he had told his mother three days earlier.

He undressed Rikki and posed her naked body in a star shape for sexual gratification, deliberately “displaying” him near a children’s lair in the woods.

His sentence was largely determined by the age he was at the time he attacked.

The judge, Judge McGowan, said: “Rikki was a child who was very willing to trust and get involved with strangers.

“He never got the chance to be happy and lead a normal, fulfilling life. That opportunity was denied him by his killer.”

She said his childhood “was sad”, that he was neglected, he was “the victim of violent and cruel behavior”, and he only went to school at lunchtime so he could eat a proper meal.

Watson showed no emotion when he was sentenced.

The judge said he will only be released after serving the minimum sentence of 15 years – minus the more than two years spent in prison – and once the Parole Board is satisfied that he no longer represents a risk to the public.

Rikki’s murder was among the most high-profile cold cases in police files until Watson’s DNA was identified on the victim’s clothing following a re-examination of the case two decades later.

Mother of four Ruth Neave was exonerated of her son’s murder in 1996 but was jailed for seven years after admitting to child cruelty – a conviction she is considering challenging, many years after her release.

She did not appear in court for the sentencing hearing.

She described Watson as “pure evil, without conscience”, while police said he was “a fantasist, a compulsive liar” who showed no remorse.

In a witness statement, read on his behalf, Neave said: “Like stones falling into a pond, (the murder) has spread far and wide.

“Rikki’s murder left a huge hole in our lives and in our hearts.

“I miss him so much it feels like my heart has been ripped out.”

Rebecca Maria Harvey, Rikki’s older sister, broke down on her way to court.

She said: “Even though I was the oldest, it wasn’t like that because he took care of me.

“Losing Rikki was like losing the other half of me.”

Addressing Watson, but without using her name, she said: “After all these years of living your life, you finally get your punishment, and Rikki Lee Harvey finally gets justice.”

Watson, now 41, was found guilty of murder in April by a jury that deliberated for 36 hours and 31 minutes to reach a majority verdict after an 11-week trial.

Rikki’s body was found on November 29, 1994, the day after her disappearance.

Watson became obsessed with journalistic coverage of the murder, copying front-page stories at school.

The following month, he was interviewed as a witness by police after an elderly resident reported seeing him with Rikki at the nearby Welland Estate.

His lying report went unchallenged, as police mistakenly focused on a theory that Neave killed his son and used a cart to dump his body.

Prosecutors initially felt there was still not enough evidence to prosecute, but reversed their decision after Neave and Rikki’s sisters asked for victims’ right to review.

Key evidence included Rikki’s last meal, Weetabix, which fixed her time of death at around noon.

This meant that Rikki was killed shortly after being seen with Watson going to the forest where he used to play.

Rikki’s muddy Clarks shoes also indicated that her walk through the woods was a one-way trip.

Watson’s sexual interest in younger boys was known to police, who interviewed him on the grounds that he molested a five-year-old in 1993.

An ex-girlfriend later said he strangled her during sex in the woods and killed a bird and spread its wings, in a sinister reconstruction of Rikki’s murder.

The judge said there was no evidence of sexual activity with Rikki’s body, although Watson had a “sexual interest in boys”.

In a 2016 police interview, Watson tried to explain the presence of his DNA on Rikki’s clothes by claiming that he took him to look at diggers through a hole in a fence.

Watson, who has a long criminal record for convictions including car theft, fled to Portugal on bail on suspicion of murder but was extradited back to Britain.

Former assistant police chief Paul Fullwood, who led the investigation into the cold case, said mistakes were made and that police initially “accused the wrong person” when prosecuting Rikki’s mother.

But he denied that the police missed the opportunity to charge Watson at the time.

He said: “It took a significant amount of time to get to this point, but we made a promise that we would find the person responsible for Rikki’s death, and it’s a promise we’ve kept.

“Rikki was a little boy of six – he was a kind, cheeky guy who was cruelly taken in under the most horrible of circumstances.”

Police said there was no evidence Watson was involved in any other serious unsolved crimes in the area.

Leave a Comment