Police reveal trawl of 700 statements, 456 documents and 902 messages to help solve 20-year-old murder of schoolboy Rikki Neave
- Credit: Archant
Detectives revealed today they are trawling through 700 statements, 456 documents and 902 messages “and more” as they re-examine the murder 20 years ago of schoolboy Rikki Neave.
Det Supt Paul Fullwood, head of major crimes for Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, told Ruth Neave, the mother of the six year-old acquitted in 1995 of her son’s murder, that he had also ordered additional forensic work.
“This is the most comprehensive review since the case first went to trial,” he said.
Mrs Neave, who has fought to have the murder inquiry re-opened, said it was “the news for which I have been waiting for the past 20 years.”
She added: “This is not a time for celebration; it’s just another step forward to getting to the truth about my son’s murder.”
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Claims that witnesses changed their statements and that a second post mortem was overlooked form some of the backdrop to the decision to conduct “the most comprehensive review” into the murder of Rikki Neave.
Two previous investigations into the murder were abandoned but following a campaign – spearheaded by Mrs Neave and the Cambs Times- Det Supt Fullwod has ordered his officers to take a fresh look at the case.
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He said he has put “a small team of investigators” to work on the murder inquiry.
Four months ago he met Ruth and her husband Gary when they presented him with their own inquiries into the case – summarised in a 50 slide power point presentation.
Now he has emailed them to thank them “for their patience” and reminded them that at their October meeting he promised to review “the areas that you had highlighted to determine whether there was sufficient information to launch a fresh investigation.
“I can tell you we have been doing much more than that; in fact since we met I have committed a small team of investigators to review the entire case.
“This includes reviewing over 700 statements, 456 documents, and 902 messages and more; this doesn’t include the additional forensic work I have since commissioned and the additional points you have raised with me that will be cross referenced.”
Det Supt Fullwood added: “This is the most comprehensive review since the case first went to trial and I have given you and others a commitment that I want us to discover the truth and if possible bring those responsible for the tragic death of Rikki to justice.
“I want to be in a position to update you fully once the review is concluded and then will make a decision whether there are sufficient grounds to open up a fresh enquiry or update transparently on our findings.”
The major crimes head added: “I have given you both an undertaking we would do this and for that purpose I have committed a small dedicated team to ensure we don’t miss anything.”
But he said he was afraid “this is taking longer than we expected as I have expanded the review from what we initially agreed to ensure we get it right.
“I do hope you can understand and I know you will both want this undertaken to the highest standard. I estimate by the end of March I will have a final product to discuss with you both.”
Det Supt Fullwood told the couple: “I am grateful for your patience and reassure you significant work is going on to review this investigation; I will be in touch nearer March with an agreed date to meet and discuss further.”
Mrs Neave – who with her husband of four years Gary held a press conference in November appealing for witnesses to come forward-, said she felt “physically drained but also relieved”.
She said: “When I received the email from Det Supt Paul Fullwood, I was just empty from the start but as I read it, there was the news I have been waiting for the past 20 years.”
“Gary and I have worked so hard to get to this point and it is overwhelming that all the work my husband has done has now been justified.”
Mrs Neave was tried – and acquitted- of Rikki’s murder in 1995 but has campaigned in recent years for the case to be re-opened.
Rikki Neave’s body was found in November 1994 in a copse near the Welland estate, Peterborough, where the family lived. He had been brutally strangled and his naked body left sprawled out. His clothes – including grey school trousers, a jacket and a white shirt- were later found in a dustbin yards from the woodland.
In the weeks that followed police took dozens of statements from people on the estate including that of a youth who initially admitted the murder but then later withdrew it.
Mrs Neave was then arrested and tried for murder. Though acquitted she admitted child cruelty charges and was jailed for seven years.
Among those to have been in touch recently with Det Supt Fullwood is Jane Saggers, a former ITV reporter based in Peterborough who covered the original murder, twice interviewing Mrs Neave.
In December she told Det Supt Fullwood of her recollections of that period including details of a “tip-off from a Cambridgeshire police officer about the timing of Ruth’s arrest in Chatteris which enabled ITV cameras to film her arrest”.
Mrs Saggers told Det Supt Fullwood that she felt he should be aware “that after Ruth’s arrest I was contacted by one of the police officers connected with the case, who demanded money for the tip off regarding Ruth’s arrest.
“He was menacing and threatening towards me and demanding that we meet at a pub. “My editor at the time asked me to meet him.”
Mr Smith believes archive TV footage from Ruth’s home on the Neave home on the Welland estate 20 years ago – now in police hands- may resolve “several key issues”. He declined to elaborate in detail but said it revealed “major discrepancies” particularly dispelling allegations that Ruth kept little food in the house and that the children’s room were bare, had no toys and that there was no food in the house.
“These are all things stated at the trial – we can now prove they are not true,” he said. “There is also the issue of so called ‘black magic’ books at the house; the film shows a vastly different story to what the court heard.”
Gary Rogers has spent much of the past year working through hundreds of pages of statements and evidence provided by his wife’s legal team at the time.
He believes the possibility of Rikki’s death being a ‘Bulger style’ killing may have been overlooked. In statements on the defence team’s files are those which show two sexual assaults on young boys on the Welland estate within six months of Rikki’s death. There is also evidence of other children being assaulted in the previous two years.
Mr Rogers said: “It looks to me that the police and social services knew of the sexual attacks and never bothered doing anything about it.
“When Rikki was murdered if they had mentioned sexual assault the other attacks would have come out and so would the actions, or lack of action by the police and social services would have come out.
“The best thing to do to cover this up is to turn on the mother which the more files and evidence I read I find this to be the case.”
He also believes a second post mortem – commissioned at the time by defence lawyers but never explored in depth- might hold more clues.
Home Office pathologist Nat Carey undertook the main post mortem but Mr Smith believes the second post mortem, by Michael Heath, a consultant in forensic medicine and pathology, paints a different story.
In his summary Mr Heath concluded: “From the position of the body at the scene the appearances strongly suggest sexual interference although there was no pathological or scientific evidence to confirm this.”
The revelation that a small team has now been put to work on the murder is, says Mr Smith, a far cry from when Det Supt Fullwood explained that two previous investigations had found “no new, fresh or compelling evidence”.
Following their initial meeting Mr Rogers said both he and Ruth felt “for the first time that we are being listened to and something might now be done”. He said Det Supt Fullwood had written to them at length and they were happy with the way he had decided to handle the inquiry, especially as Mick Flavin, the head of the tri-force cold case review team, had been at the meeting.
“Paul Fullwood assured us he would remain open mind, honest and upfront – his words- about this inquiry and it was something we were delighted to hear,” said Mr Rogers.
“He also said that investigations 20 years ago were dealt with quite differently from today – something I know from bitter experience having spotted numerous anomalies in many statements and in the original police investigation.”