The Boy in the Woods

The Boy in the Woods

By BBC Radio 4

The Boy in the Woods, six-year-old Rikki Neave, had been strangled and left naked. His body was positioned in a distinctive star shape.

People on the council estate where he lived told police they had seen his mother, Ruth, hitting and shouting at Rikki. He was on the Social Services Register of children at risk. All the people closest to Rikki were in trouble and all of them were known to the authorities who offered help. It didn't work. The day before he died his mother begged a family aid worker to take him into care, saying she would kill him.

Winifred Robinson has been following this case for more than 20 years. She's always felt it held the key to what goes wrong in the lives of society's most vulnerable children. Police built a case against Rikki's mother but this investigation uncovers how crucial evidence was never brought before the court. Ruth Neave was jailed for seven years for child cruelty while Rikki's killer was left at large.

The series exposes how this happened and what it took for the truth to emerge. Original police interview tapes, evidence from forensic scientists and others who have never spoken to the media before, help piece together what happened.. Close friends of Rikki, who were themselves vulnerable children, reveal for the first time how his death came to shape all their lives.

And as the net closes in on the real killer, who was himself a boy of only 13 at the time, how he goes on the run, taunting police from abroad.

We hear from a teacher who alerted police to this boy at the time of Rikki's death, noticing his obsession with the case. We've recorded the first interviews with a family aid worker who was with Rikki, the day before he died and with a troubled teenager who was alongside his mother on the day he was killed.

As the verdict is delivered, the jurors share with us how they weighed the evidence that convinced them they had looked into the eyes of a killer.

Winifred Robinson, the reporter, and Sue Mitchell, the series producer, are an award-winning BBC documentary team. They have worked together for 20 years on high profile cases, interviewing the father of James Bulger. His son's killing provoked huge interest in Rikki's case.

Episodes

The Boy in the Woods: The Discussion

In this one-off special documentary linked to her recent series 'The Boy in the Woods', Winifred Robinson brings together Lord Laming who led an inquiry into Rikki Neave's death with Dame Louise Casey, who oversaw the Troubled Families Programme, and Polly Curtis, whose written extensively about what is happening in the care system today.The programme reports on current best-practice and how it can be replicated and examines what's happened in the years since Rikki’s death. What is our baseline here and what are we trying to achieve? And is there an acceptable level of risk? There were a whole series of investigations in the aftermath of the death of six-year-old Rikki Neave and promises in Parliament that lessons would be learned. His case is in the news again because his killer has been convicted after 27 years. The many layers of sadness and disadvantage in Rikki’s life are explored in the Winifred Robinson 10-part Radio 4 series. The case is a marker for more than a quarter of a century of lost children and good intentions. Rikki was on the register of children at risk. His mother had asked for him to be taken into care, saying she couldn’t control him, couldn’t cope. He was playing truant from school on the day he died, a vulnerable child, an easy target. Jurors at his trial say that one of the saddest aspects is the knowledge that children like Rikki are still dying today, that social services inquiries keep coming to the same conclusions about poor information-sharing, bad management and overloaded, inexperienced staff.Winifred's three guests have extensive experience of what has gone wrong in the past and what we could be changing to improve the life chances for the most vulnerable children in society. This is a unique opportunity for listeners to consider some of the wider aspects raised in the series, The Boy in the WoodsLord Herbert Laming has been a social worker, a director of social services, head of the Social Services Inspectorate. He was involved in Rikki’s case. He chaired the public inquiry into the murder of Victoria Climbie. The government asked him to review child protection after the death of Baby P, Peter Connolly in 2007.Baroness Louise Casey has been finding practical solutions to difficult social problems for years now. She led the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit at the Home Office, the Troubled Families Programme, the investigation into the Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation scandal. Polly Curtis is a journalist who’s just published a book, Behind Closed Doors: Why We Break Up Families and How to Mend Them. She knows what’s happening in the care system now, what’s changed, what could be better.
18/10/22·27m 43s

10. A Case to Answer

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, known to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Ten of The Boy in the Woods the BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, reveals recordings of Rikki's step-father, Dean Neave, being questioned by police following the murder. Unlike Ruth Neave, Dean never faced charges of child neglect; but as Rikki's sister, Rochelle, reveals, the six year old was regularly beaten and ill treated by his step-Dad. Ruth herself thought Dean might have had a hand in what happened to him and in the wake of his death social services had many questions to answer.The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall The Editor is Philip Sellars We would like to thank the Cambridgeshire Journalist, John Elworthy, for his help in the making of this series.
03/10/22·30m 15s

9. A Web of Lies

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, know to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Nine of The Boy in the Woods the BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, is at the Old Bailey in London as the jury is sworn in. Their task: to decide the guilt or innocence of James Watson. In a trial full of twists and turns, Winifred hears from some of the jurors about what helped them reach their verdict and as police wait anxiously in court she reflects on her own feelings about the case.The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·27m 16s

8. A Suspect on the Run

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, know to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Eight of The Boy in the Woods the BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, investigates the past of the new main suspect in the case, a grown man now, but a boy of 13 at the time of Rikki's death. As the case against him takes shape he escapes to Portugal, hiding out in a camper van to avoid border controls. Once there he sends taunting photos to journalists in the UK and criticises what he claims are police attempts to incriminate him. The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall and Joel Moors
03/10/22·23m 50s

7. Hidden Clues

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, know to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Seven of The Boy in the Woods the BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, begins piecing together the forensic evidence overlooked by the first team of investigators. Fibres found on Rikki's clothes could hold the key to finding the killer: with more sensitive DNA techniques now available, might it be possible to find a match on the police databases?The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall and Joel Moors.
03/10/22·27m 35s

6. Out of the Shadows

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, known to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Six of The Boy in the Woods the BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, records with Ruth Neave after her release from prison. She wants to clear her name and find her son's killer and is being supported by her new husband, Gary Rogers. Winifred follows what happens as they appeal to Cambridgeshire Police to re-open the case.The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·23m 17s

5. The Clamour for Justice

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, known to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Five of the Boy in the Woods, BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, interviews Bryonie Swift, a family aid worker assigned to work with Ruth and her children in the months before Rikki's death. In this, her first public interview, she reveals Ruth's frustration with Rikki the day before he went missing. In a haunting exchange the young mother turned to Bryonie and told her that she couldn't cope. She wanted help and if she didn't get it, she said she would "kill him." The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·25m 42s

4. The Interrogation

In Episode Four of The Boy in the Woods, BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, pieces together how police officers set about building their case against Rikki's mother, Ruth. They question her relentlessly for more than twenty hours as they attempt to trap her. The tapes draw you into the nightmare world she faced, with one officer saying in response to her claims that she was a good Mum: "If you're such a good Mum then, Ruth, how come you've got one child dead and another one in care?" The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·30m 25s

3. The Prime Suspect

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, known to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Three of Boy in the Woods, police are searching for evidence and on the Welland Estate rumours are flying thick and fast. Parents are fearful about letting their children out and those close to the family are re-evaluating what they thought they knew about Rikki's Mum, Ruth. In police appeals for help it's Rikki's father who is featured, with tears streaming down his face. Behind the scenes many are wondering about the family and whether it holds clues to what might have happened to the lively six-year-old.The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·21m 54s

2. A Body is Found

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, known to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.In Episode Two of The Boy in the Woods two police officers searching the woods near Rikki's home find the body of the six-year-old: he's been strangled, stripped and posed star-shaped, with his arms outstretched and legs wide apart. His murder sends shock waves through the local community and friends and neighbours quickly start trying to piece together what's happened and who might be responsible. The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·19m 11s

1. A Child is Missing

For more than 20 years the case of the murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave went unsolved. In this new ten part investigation, award-winning journalist Winifred Robinson, has unearthed the truth through unprecedented access to police interview rooms, and follows the investigation as the police move in on the perpetrator.It's a haunting and heart-breaking case filled with injustice, a story of vulnerable children, known to the authorities who should have been protected, a tale of lives wasted and cut short. You'll hear original police tapes never broadcast before, fresh testimony from suspects and witnesses, new and compelling evidence from forensic scientists. The series takes you inside the jury room and abroad as the manhunt closes in.Close friends of Rikki, who were themselves vulnerable children, explain for the first time how a lively and mischievous six-year-old was an easy target for a killer who would kill him in the woods near his home in Peterborough and lay out his body in a macabre star shape. Rikki's death came to shape all their lives. Winifred Robinson, the reporter, and Sue Mitchell, the series producer, are an award-winning BBC documentary team. They have worked together for 20 years on high profile cases, interviewing the father of James Bulger. His son's killing provoked huge interest in Rikki’s case. In Episode One of The Boy in the Woods the BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson, tracks the last hours before six-year-old Rikki was reported missing. He was late setting off for school that day. His mother, Ruth, watched him as he quickly ate his breakfast and then she caught sight of him just before he went out the front door: it was the last time she would ever see him alive again. The Boy in the Woods is Presented by BBC Journalist, Winifred Robinson; the Series Producer is Sue Mitchell Sound Design is by Tom Brignall
03/10/22·19m 53s

Introducing The Boy in the Woods

Winifred Robinson tells the story of a case that's stayed with her for more than half of her working life and asks why it took more than 20 years to catch a child's killer.
05/09/22·3m 15s
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