RIKKI Neave's tormented sister sobbed as she told of her "never-ending nightmare" as the six-year-old's killer was jailed today.
James Watson was just 13 when he strangled Rikki just five minutes from his home in Peterborough, Cambs, in 1994.
He then "deliberately posed" the naked youngster into a "star shape with outstretched arms and his legs placed wide apart".
Chillingly, Watson stayed with Rikki's body for an hour before leaving the youngster uncovered in woodland.
Rikki's mum Ruth Neave later stood trial for his murder but was cleared – leading to a 27-year cold case mystery.
Watson, now 40, was today jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years after being convicted of murder.
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Rikki's sister Rebecca Maria Harvey broke down as she told how losing her younger brother was "like losing the other half of me".
She said: "I still wake up every day thinking it was a nightmare. I never had a brother to grow up with.
"Rikki is the one who is not here and lost his life, but the effect this had on me and my family is just never-ending.
"This has been so traumatic, not knowing what happened to him or why. Not only did I lose Rikki, but I lost my whole family."
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Addressing Watson, she added: "After all these years of living your life, you finally get your comeuppance and Rikki Lee Harvey finally gets justice."
While mum Ruth also slammed the monster today for murdering her "soulmate" as she revealed she is still called a killer.
In a powerful victim impact statement, she said: "I had my children snatched out of my arms in the middle of the night because the police were so adamant that I had killed Rikki and would then kill my daughters.
"I feel dead inside, he was the only son I had.
"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."
Ruth also described her "little hero", adding: "Rikki was my only son, my beautiful son with deep blue eyes. I fell in love with him the moment he was born."
Watson has a string of previous convictions – including sexual assault, burglary, theft of a police uniform and unmarked cop car and smashing up a children's home.
It can also be revealed he abused a five-year-old child a year before the murder and throttled a girlfriend during sex.
Jurors heard how he had been seen with the youngster on the day he vanished and was spoken to by police at the time.
But he told "many lies", claimed he did not know Rikki and made no mention of "physical contact".
It was only when his DNA showed on Rikki's clothes that he was charged with murder more than 20 years later.
Ruth Neave had called 999 to report her son missing on the evening of November 28, 1994.
Rikki's body was discovered the next day by a police officer in woodland near the housing estate in Peterborough where he lived.
He had patterned marks on the front of his neck that could have been caused by the zip on his coat – suggesting he was probably attacked from behind.
A post-mortem found the cause of death was "ligature strangulation".
His death would have followed within "no less than 30 seconds" from when pressure was first applied.
The location of the zip marks on Rikki's neck suggest he "didn't see it coming" when he "willingly" walked into the woods with his killer.
Prosecutor John Price QC said: "He had been strangled. The body was naked. It was lying on the ground, flat on its back.
"It had been deliberately posed by the killer, in a star shape, with outstretched arms, and his legs placed wide apart.
"There was no sign of any of Rikki's clothing. But perched poignantly on a leaf, just 18 inches from the left hand was a single, small, white shirt button."
His school uniform was found in a wheelie bin around 150 yards away.
The laces on the his shoes were still tied, three buttons were missing from his shirt and his jacket contained his underwear and socks and some toys.
"Vulnerable" Rikki was known to social services and had been placed on the "at risk register" at the time of his death.
His mother was charged with murder and child cruelty six months after her son's brutal death.
She admitted cruelty towards Rikki and his two sisters but denied and was acquitted of murder in 1996.
Ruth was wrongly accused because police found a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man that resembled the position her son's body was found in.
COLD CASE MYSTERY
The case was opened again in 2015 and tests on adhesive tape from Rikki's clothes showed a DNA match with Watson.
The court heard he was seen with Rikki on the day he disappeared and was spoken to by police as a witness.
A youth had also been seen walking out of a cul-de-sac where Rikki's clothes were later recovered.
At the time, Watson was "exhibiting a grotesque interest in the subject of child murder", it was said.
Teachers also allegedly noticed a "conspicuous pre-occupation with the extensive reporting of the fate of Rikki Neave".
Watson had fled to Europe with a pal who promised to take him to Thailand after he was arrested in 2016.
But his Far East hopes were dashed when he ended up homeless and wandering the streets of Portugal.
He even emailed his probation officer saying: "I'm in a world of s**t".
A European Arrest Warrant was issued requesting Watson's extradition for breaching the terms of his licence.
He was arrested in Lisbon at the Consulate building and he was flown home on August 12.
Clare Forsdike, a senior crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The conviction of James Watson for killing Rikki Neave concludes an appalling unsolved crime almost 30 years after it happened. It brings justice for Rikki.
"It has been like a jigsaw puzzle with each piece of evidence not enough by itself but when put together creating a clear and compelling picture of why James Watson had to be the killer.
"Ultimately a combination of evidence from DNA, post mortem, soil samples, eyewitness testimony, and his changing accounts proved overwhelming.
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"Only James Watson knows why he did it. He remained silent for two decades and then put Rikki's family through the agony of a trial.
"I hope the verdict gives some consolation to all those who love and miss Rikki Neave."
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