The late stepfather of murdered schoolboy Rikki Neave described the youngster’s turbulent home life in evidence to court from beyond the grave.
Dean Neave was not living with Rikki’s mother Ruth at the time he went missing in Peterborough on November 28 1994.
The little boy was found strangled and posed naked in a star shape in woods near his home, the Old Bailey has heard.
Ms Neave was later cleared of his murder but jailed for seven years for child cruelty, which she had admitted, jurors have heard.
More than 20 years later, DNA belonging to 13-year-old James Watson was found on Rikki’s clothes which were dumped in a wheelie bin.
On Thursday, jurors in Watson’s murder trial heard evidence from Ms Neave’s late ex-husband, who died in a car crash in 1999.
Prosecutor John Price QC read out a statement Mr Neave made to police in December 1994.
In it, Mr Neave described how the couple had shared an interest in “black magic”.
He said: “Both Ruth and me were fascinated. However I have not bothered for about five years.
“Ruth is still interested in tarot cards and ouija boards.”
Mr Neave was jailed for two-and-a-half years but in 1991 he called her from prison and she visited him, jurors heard.
They got married but Mr Neave said he “suspected that she was seeing other men” and applied for an annulment.
Upon his release, he moved in with Ms Neave for about three weeks, jurors heard.
He said: “I left because of the way Ruth used to treat the children.
“She was always shouting and screaming at the children and was regularly hitting them with her hand.
“I thought a lot of it was unnecessary and I could not stand it so I moved out.”
He said Ms Neave lost her temper with her older children, Rebecca and Rikki, the most.
“Rikki was more mischievous although he always did what I asked him to do,” he said.
Mr Neave said he always got on well with his three stepchildren and would visit regularly to see his own baby daughter.
But he said: “Nearly every time I visited I would end up having a row with Ruth.”
Both he and Ms Neave took amphetamines, he added: “I would say she is addicted. Her moods are seriously affected by her drugs and withdrawal.”
On one occasion, he noticed Rikki had an injury which Ms Neave said he got from falling off a bunk, the court heard.
Mr Neave said he visited Ms Neave the day before Rikki went missing and learned of his death from the news on November 30 1994.
He concluded by saying: “At present, I am in the process of divorcing my wife Marie and hopefully I’m trying to get back with my former wife Ruth.”
Mrs Justice McGowan told jurors: “In respect of this witness, if he was still alive the defence would have wanted to cross-examine him and ask him some questions.”
Earlier, Watson’s former teacher described how he made copies of a front-page story about Rikki’s death.
David Benjamin, who was head of house at Walton school in Peterborough, said Watson did not attend on November 28 1994, the day Rikki disappeared.
On November 30 1994, he returned for his first full day in school “for ages”, the witness said.
That afternoon, he allegedly went out to get the local evening paper featuring Rikki on the front page.
Watson then showed him one of six copies of the front page he had made, saying they were to display in the children’s home where he was staying in nearby March, Cambridgeshire, jurors heard.
Mr Price asked: “Were further copies of the document made by James?”
Mr Benjamin replied: “Yes. 25 of them.”
Watson allegedly went on to tell his teacher: “This is my mate’s brother and I knew him.”
Watson, now aged 40, of no fixed address, has denied murder and the trial at the Old Bailey continues.