A man who fled the country while suspected of being behind one of Britain’s most notorious child murders will face no charges due to a lack of evidence, it has emerged today.
James Watson, 37, was arrested on April 19 last year on suspicion of killing six-year-old Rikki Neave, who was found strangled in Peterborough in 1994.
He was released on police bail but absconded from a hostel in Northampton and smuggled himself out of the UK to Portugal in the back of a camper van.
Detectives from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire major crimes unit travelled to Lisbon in August 2016 to bring him back to Britain.
James Watson, 37, was arrested on April 19 last year on suspicion of killing six-year-old Rikki Neave, who was found dead in 1994, but he will not be charged, the CPS said today
Father-of-one Watson, from Peterborough, was then sent back to prison for breaching a life licence.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today announced there is insufficient evidence to charge him over the schoolboy’s murder.
Paul Scothern of the CPS, said: ‘Once the police have carried out an investigation, a file of evidence may be submitted to the CPS.
‘This file is then reviewed in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which outlines the standards that prosecutors must follow when they make decisions about whether charges can be brought.
‘In order to begin a prosecution, we have to be satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.
‘We considered a range of evidence obtained by police from the time of Rikki’s disappearance to the recent reinvestigation.
‘We have decided that the evidence is insufficient for a realistic prospect of conviction and therefore for charge.
‘The deliberate killing of a child is shocking and tragic, but we cannot bring charges if there is not enough evidence to take to court.
‘Rikki’s family have been informed of our decision and given a full explanation. We have also offered to meet with them.’
His mother Ruth (left) was later charged but acquitted of Ricky’s murder. She was sentenced to seven years prison for child cruelty – a conviction she is now challenging – and her children were placed in care
Watson was on a lifetime prison licence for burning down a British Transport Police station in Peterborough when he was arrested and questioned on suspicion of the murder of Rikki.
He poured petrol over the police base in September 2011 before stealing uniforms, belts, CS sprays, seized cannabis and keys to a police car.
The attack destroyed evidence of 50 crimes and prejudiced 167, the court heard as he was jailed.
Over the last three years, Detectives from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit have meticulously investigated Rikki’s murder.
The team of more than 25 officers have taken more than 1200 statements and created about 1300 actions.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Fullwood, who leads the three force Joint Protective Services, said: ‘It is disappointing that following our three year investigation we have not been able to identify the person or persons responsible for Rikki’s murder.
‘However, although at this stage we have no further active lines of enquiry we remain committed to finding his killer.
‘It is frustrating that despite three years of detailed investigations we are not able to tell Rikki’s family what happened on the day of his murder but we will not give up hope to do so one day.
‘Whether it be new evidence or advances in forensic science, we will utilise every opportunity to investigate this murder and bring an offender to justice.
‘We strongly believe someone out there knows the truth and remain hopeful that one day will come to light.’
Watson was on a lifetime prison licence for burning down a British Transport Police station in Peterborough when he was arrested and questioned on suspicion of the murder of Rikki
Police previously insisted to Rikki’s mother Ruth Neave that ‘all lines of investigation have and are being pursued’.
The youngster was found strangled near his home on the Welland estate in Peterborough, Cambs., in November 1994.
His mother was later charged but acquitted of his murder.
She was sentenced to seven years prison for child cruelty – a conviction she is now challenging – and her children were placed in care.
Mrs Neave said the stress and uncertainty is taking its toll on her health.
She said: ‘I have to live every day as it comes.
‘It is heartbreaking to believe that police got so near to finding my son’s murderer but as each day, each week, and each month slips by it is getting harder to believe his killer will be found and brought to justice.’