Who is Nicola Payne

Who is Nicola Payne?

Nicola Payne became the focal point of one of the largest investigations in the history of the West Midlands police when she was reported missing in December 1991.

To this day no trace of Nicola has been found.

The hunt for more information has not ceased and her family continue to look into and question this mysterious and controversial case, the circumstances of her disappearance and the manner in which the authorities have handled it.

The Case

The Case

Nicola Payne was a young lady on the verge of a new and exciting phase of her life but on a cold and foggy day in December 1991, she left her boyfriend’s house and was never seen again.

The mystery of Nicola’s disappearance has haunted the city of Coventry for nearly three decades and would have been like many missing person cases that are forgotten over time but for the perseverance and dogged determination of her family.

This story is now exposed to a wider audience to expose the truth and bring justice for Nicola Payne.

The time has come.

The Timeline

Saturday 14th December: 12:00 noon

Nicola leaves her boyfriend Jason Cooke's home in Winston Avenue, Coventry, to walk a 5 minute journey to her parents across land known as ‘The Black Pad’. She leaves her 7 month old son Owen with Jason.

Saturday 14th December: 12:30pm

Nicola was to meet her father, John, with keys for her new home in Gayer Street, Coventry.
John arrives home. There are no keys. John calls the Cooke family to see where Nicola is.

Saturday 14th December: 13:00pm

John wakes Nicola's brother Dale at 13:00pm and asks if he has seen Nicola.

Saturday 14th December: 13:00pm

Marilyn, Nicola's mother, receives a call from John asking if she has heard or seen Nicola as she has not arrived home.

Saturday 14th December: 14:00pm

Dale goes out to look for Nicola.

Saturday 14th December: 14:30pm

Scott, Nichola's brother, arrives at his parents house and joins them in a search across the Black Pad.

Saturday 14th December: 15:00pm

The Police are called to Nicola's parents’ house. Their concern is initially dismissed as ‘a teen runaway’

Sunday 15th December 1991: First Light

Scott returns about 07:00am to his parents' house to start the search again with his father.

16th December 1991

Detective Malcolm Ross and the West Midlands police launch their biggest investigation with over 80+ officers involved.

17th & 18th December 1991

Nigel Barwell and Thomas O’Reilly are arrested

18th December 1991

During a helicopter search of the local area, a tent is spotted

19th December 1991

Tent, inner tent and awning found in Ventnor Close, Coventry.

20th December 1991

West Midlands police release a reconstruction of Nicola’s last moments

6th January 1992

100 West Midlands police including an underwater search team and mounted police hunt sewers, drains and waste ground.

9th January 1992

Nicola’s 19th birthday

11th January 1992

Christopher Parker charged with hoax calls at Coventry magistrates

14th January 1992

Second intensive police search exactly one month after Nicola disappeared

19th January 1992

Tent added to exhibits log in police records

6th February 1992

Police consider if Nicola Payne and Barbara Finn have a connection to missing estate agent Stephanie Slater.

12th February 1992

Christopher Parker pleads guilty for wasting police time and three nuisance calls regarding Nicola Payne

3rd March 1992

Nigel Barwell and Thomas O’Reilly are not identified in a police ID parade.

March 1992

Bail charged on the suspects Nigel Barwell & Thomas O’Reilly

15th May 1992

Owen’s first birthday

October 1992

Psychic in Manchester tells the family Nicola is alive in the Potteries, North Staffordshire

12th December 1992

Police appeal for information with £5000 reward as the one year anniversary approaches

14th December 1992

Press conference is held on the first anniversary of Nicola’s disappearance

10th June 1993

The band Soul Asylum features Nicola’s photo in their music video for Runaway Train in association with the Missing Persons Bureau.

23rd June 1993

Police frogmen search 50 yards of Coventry Canal near Ansty after a tip-off by a clairvoyant.

July - November 1993

Police interview Michael Sams, the kidnapper of Stephanie Slater & murderer of Julie Dart. He denies involvement with Nicola.

20th January 1994

150 volunteers take part in the search for Nicola, organised by Will Markham.

January 1994

Police and volunteers search the Coventry canal at Longford

23rd April 1996

The police conduct an extensive search of a house in Woodway Lane, Coventry, 150 yards from Nicola’s home, but nothing is found

June 2001

The police search part of the Oxford Canal in Ansty

September 2001

Bones found close to disappearance site are identified as animal remains


Poster campaign launch to highlight Nicola’s case

December 2005

BBC’s ‘Missing’ programme features an appeal for information alongside an image of what Nicola would have looked like 14 years after her disappearance


National Missing Persons t-shirts printed with Nicola’s image

March 2007

A Major Investigation Unit re-opens the case into Nicola’s disappearance with new lines of enquiry as an appeal for information is launched


Key pieces of evidence, including Nicola’s hairbrush, are declared lost

November 2007

37 year old Malcolm Brannan is arrested in Derbyshire.

June 2008

Police search a garden in Winston Avenue, Coventry but nothing is found

April 2012

Detective Martin Slevin leads the investigation as the inquiry is re-opened

19th June 2012

The police excavate parkland at Courthouse Green/Purcell Road, Coventry but nothing is found

20th June 2012

Patrick Judge and his son Keith are arrested as part of the investigation while their garden is searched in Bell Green, Coventry. Nothing is found

21st June 2012

The Judges’ are released and later charges are dropped

14th December 2012

Another appeal for information on two men seen close to the Black Pad is made on the 21st anniversary of Nicola’s disappearance

January 2013

The new appeal provides 25 new leads in the case. Police ask for more information on a Ford Capri.

13th March 2013

Nigel Barwell and Thomas O’Reilly declared suspects by Detective Slevin

17th December 2013

Nigel Barwell and Thomas O’Reilly are arrested again and released on bail

February 2014

Police search a nature reserve near Binley, Coventry

5th February 2014

The tent is re-discovered in police storage

7th February 2014

The tent is sent for forensic examination

March 2014

Police officers and dogs search Coombe Abbey Country Park, Coventry

January 2015

Nigel Barwell and Thomas O’Reilly are charged with the murder of Nicola Payne

February 2015

Police search Hales industrial estate near Rowley’s Green, Coventry

12th October 2015

The trial of Nigel Barwell and Thomas O’Reilly begins

15th November 2015

Nigel Barwell & Thomas O’Reilly are found not guilty of Nicola Payne’s murder

Black Pad