A grim finale to a short, sad life

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The Independent Online
Ruth Neave thrust a bundle of papers into her social worker's hands in the autumn of 1994. The social worker did not have time to read the manuscript, putting it on the back of her bicycle.

It was only after Rikki Neave's naked body was found laid out in a star shape in the small copse near the Welland estate, Peterborough, in November that the social worker remembered the manuscript. She found it was a half-written novel called A Perfect Murder.

Yesterday, a jury at Northampton Crown Court cleared Neave of murdering her son, but guilty of crimes including "appalling ill-treatment and neglect" of Rikki and two of his sisters, for which she was jailed for seven years.

Last night, ministers ordered a social services "hit squad" into Cambridgeshire, to discover why no one intervened in the short and tragic life of a six- year-old whose mother had repeatedly threatened to harm him.

After Rikki's strangled body was found, detectives found books on black magic scattered around the Neave home, including one called Magic by the mystic Aleister Crowley, with the sinister description of a sacrifice. Neave's obsessions with crime stories and black magic were just two indications of a disturbed personality - evidence of which first emerged 20 years ago. Born Ruth Anne Greig, she showed signs of being disturbed from an early age. She had been in and out of foster homes since the age of two, rejected by her parents, who killed themselves in a suicide pact when she was 24.

Addiction to amphetamines further destabilised her and she became increasingly preoccupied with the occult, mentioning to a neighbour on the day that she moved to the estate that she was a high priestess of the occult.

The social worker found that the Perfect Murder manuscript featured a character called Richard, who talked of being "shoved aside" throughout his life and killed a woman after having a bad night's sleep.

"The most awful thing of all was that I never felt an ounce of guilt," Richard said. "The evil came out then . . . I had no remorse . . . I never felt so much power as when I committed this awful crime."

Rikki's life was short and violent. His father, Trevor Harvey, who had left the family said he was "the best boy in the world and I loved him. He was my son, full of fun and so bright".

This did not tally with what others saw of the child, who was kept away from school because his mother had "knocked him black and blue", who had washing-up liquid squirted into his mouth, and who was heard to say as he tried to spit it out: "Mummy I love you."

Because of the hatred between Rikki and his stepfather, the boy became the butt of much of Neave's cruelty. She kicked her son "like a football", picked him up by the throat, punched him and sent him out late at night to fetch drugs to feed her amphetamine addiction.

One witness said that she had seen Rikki being dangled, screaming, over the side of a bridge by his mother when he was four years old. And in a series of letters to his Rikki's stepfather, Dean, Neave wrote: "I have burnt him with a match . . . I have punched his little face in. I just want to kill him . . . but I cannot."

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