We accompany Ruth Neave back to Peterborough for the first time in 20 years to where son Rikki was murdered
- Credit: Archant
A one-hour drive along the A14 and then on to the A1, a right hand turn into Peterborough, a stop for coffee at a nearby KFC and suddenly we are there: the spot where nearly 20 years ago the body of Rikki Neave was found.
The six-year-old had been strangled. His clothing ripped off him and placed in a nearby wheelie bin.
In the words of Pc Thomas Malcolm Graham who found him: “He was lying on his back in a spread eagled fashion. The body was lying on a faint path and was naked.”
The discovery drew the attention of the country’s media and a massive manhunt was launched involving 150 officers.
As evidence of neglect was pieced together detectives decided his mother Ruth was the murderer.
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She stood trial on cruelty charges and murder, denied all charges, but agreed midway through to plead guilty to neglect. She stood her ground and won a unanimous not guilty verdict from a jury on a charge of murder.
Ruth Neave was jailed for seven years, served most of it, and to all intents and purposes the hunt for who did murder her son was left in abeyance.
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With me last Saturday as I drove into the Welland estate and to the spot where Rikki was found was his mum Ruth and her husband of four years Gary.
Ruth, crippled with arthritis and able to walk only with the aid of crutches, got out of the car and to the area where her son had been found.
“I’ve never been here,” she said as she gazed into the bracken and woodland jutting out and nestling alongside the Paston Parkway and Eye Road.
We were in a cul-de-sac, Willoughby Court, and a minute’s walk to where refuse bins are stored and inside one of which Rikki’s clothing was found.
It was Ruth’s first visit to the estate since her arrest, remand in custody and prison sentence - in 2000 she was released, driven to Cambridge and, in her own words, “told to go to where I was going, to meet up with my probation officer, no new ID, and put in a flat to get on with it”.
She was later to meet Gary but time has not melted her desire to find the identity of whoever did murder Rikki.
Of the vilification she received, from the judge, the media and from those who knew her, she is unrepentant.
“The severity of the allegations was ridiculous,” she says. “I was never the mother of year and I have never denied disciplining my children. But what needs to be put right is the fact I was never evil to the children or cruel which was how social services and police portrayed me to the public.”
It’s a brief return visit but one Ruth felt she needed to make to help her recall any small detail of Rikki’s last days that might help a new investigation point to the murderer.
With Gary relentlessly collating many of the court documents – witness statements, prosecution exhibits and even, though she can’t bring herself to read it, the post mortem report on Rikki – they have begun a campaign for police to re-open the case.
Thus far the door has remained closed to such a prospect, Cambs Police having pursued a tentative re-examination of evidence last year before concluding there was nothing new to go on.
It is a campaign Ruth is determined to win. She has spoken by phone to Sir Graham Bright, the police commissioner, been visited by CID officers and harangued chief constable Simon Parr.
And now she’s been back to the scene of the murder in the hope it will stir memories for residents still living there of what happened that fateful November day in 1994 when Rikki met his premature, tragic and brutal end.
“Blaming me for Rikki’s death has to stop,” she said.
We drive slowly through the estate, the rear window being lowered for Ruth to look out at her old home in Redmile Walk and using the moment to force fresh memories to the surface to help her bring justice to her son.