The mother of murdered schoolboy Rikki Neave has described her anguish as the six-year-old’s killer was finally brought to justice after nearly 28 years.
Ruth Neave said she felt like she had her “heart ripped out” when Rikki was murdered, as James Watson prepared to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday.
Watson, now 41 but 13 at the time, was convicted of murder in April after jurors heard he strangled Rikki in woodland before posing his naked body in a star shape for sexual gratification.
Ms Neave said she did not want to be at court for Watson’s sentencing, but in a victim impact statement said: “Rikki was the most beautiful person ever. I miss all of his cheekiness, his laughter.
“Why would someone kill such a beautiful child?”
She said the murder had a huge impact on her family.
Ms Neave said: “Like stones dropping in a pond, it has rippled out far and wide.
“Rikki’s murder left a massive hole in our lives and in our hearts
“I miss him so much that it feels like I have had my heart ripped out.”
Police originally suspected Ms Neave of being responsible for the 1994 atrocity, but a jury acquitted her of murder two years later.
She was instead jailed for seven years after admitting child cruelty, a conviction she is reported to consider challenging, many years after her release from prison.
Ms Neave, a mother-of-four, said she had not seen her other children since Rikki’s death, and had been wrongly suspected of being a murderer.
She said: “Yes, I used to shout at him and swear, but that never killed him, did it?”
She described her son as “very cheeky”, and said he “could not stop making people laugh”.
The boy’s mother said: “He had plenty of chitter-chatter. Rikki was my only son, my beautiful son with deep blue eyes. I fell in love with him the moment he was born.
“He was my little hero looking out for others.
“Rikki was a quiet little boy and very clever.
“I bloody well was besotted with the way he was growing up.”
Rikki’s murder was among the most high-profile cold cases on police files until Watson’s DNA was identified on the victim’s clothes following a re-examination of the case two decades later.
He was originally interviewed by police in the days after the murder in Peterborough, but gave a false alibi.
Watson will be handed a life sentence, with Mrs Justice McGowan previously saying the minimum term in prison will reflect that Watson was 13 when he struck.
Rebecca Maria Harvey, Rikki’s eldest sister, broke down as she addressed the court.
She said: “Although I was the eldest, it wasn’t like that as he would look after me.
“Losing Rikki was like losing the other half of me.”
Addressing Watson, but not using his name, she said: “After all these years of living your life … you finally get your comeuppance and Rikki Lee Harvey finally gets justice.”
Rochelle Orr, one of Rikki’s younger sisters, said: “I was only three when Rikki was murdered and I was removed from my family. After I entered the care system I suffered severe mental health issues.
“I remember Rikki feeding me, washing me and help me with my clothes.
“He has missed so much or our lives, happy times that we have had. I also wonder what he would be like if he was still here but, sadly, I will never know because he was taken from me.”