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Man serving life for Rikki Neave murder to challenge conviction at appeal court

NewsMan serving life for Rikki Neave murder to challenge conviction at appeal court

A man serving a life sentence for the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave nearly 30 years ago will challenge his conviction at the Court of Appeal.

Rikki’s murder in 1994 was among the most high-profile cold cases on police files, until DNA was identified on the victim’s clothes following a re-examination of the case two decades later.

James Watson, 42, who was just 13 at the time of the killing and lived in Peterborough, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years at the Old Bailey in June last year.

He was given the go-ahead to challenge his conviction by judges at a hearing in March, who said he had “arguable” grounds of appeal.

His lawyers told the Court of Appeal at that hearing that the evidence against Watson was “circumstantial”.

READ MORE: Rikki Neave ‘finally gets justice’ as killer is jailed for life

Appeal judges said media reports of the hearing could not reveal detail of Watson’s grounds of appeal.

Watson’s trial heard he had lured Rikki to woods and strangled him to fulfil a “morbid fantasy”.

Prosecutors told the Old Bailey he had stripped Rikki and posed his naked body in a star shape for sexual gratification, deliberately “exhibiting” him near a children’s woodland den.

Watson denied murder but was found guilty by a jury.

Trial judge Mrs Justice McGowan said Watson’s sentence was determined largely by the age he was at the time of Rikki’s death.

Rikki’s mother Ruth Neave was cleared of his murder following a trial at Northampton Crown Court in 1996, but given a seven-year jail term after admitting child cruelty.

The appeal will be heard by Lord Justice Holroyde and two other judges from 10.30am today (Tuesday June 13).

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