THE TRIAL of two Coventry men accused of murdering missing teenage mother Nicola Payne is underway at Birmingham Crown Court.
Brothers-in-law Nigel Barwell, aged 51 from Copperas Street, and Thomas O’Reilly, 51, of Ribble Road, are both charged with the murder of Nicola, who went missing from the Wood End area of the city on December 14, 1991.
The prosecution alleges the pair murdered the mother-of-one as she walked across a piece of wasteland, known locally as ‘Black Pad’.
The 19-year-old was travelling from the home she shared with her boyfriend and baby son to her parents’ home when she disappeared – a familiar journey that should have taken five minutes.
Her body has never been found, with the prosecution alleging the defendants then disposed of her body.
Both Barwell and O’Reilly, who would have been 27 at the time, deny the charges.
The jury was sworn in on Monday, October 5, but evidence began on Monday, October 12.
On the opening day of the trial, the jury heard from a dog walker on Black Pad who heard a woman scream on the day Miss Payne went missing.
Patrick Carter said he saw a figure hiding in bushes on the wasteland and heard a car engine nearby.
Walking on, Mr Carter saw a metallic blue Ford Capri before hearing a scream come from the direction of the bushes.
Prosecutor, Andrew Smith QC, invited the jury to conclude the scream had come from Nicola Payne and told the jury that in 1991 Mr Barwell owned a distinctive blue 1980 Ford Capri.
A second witness, Louise Sambrook, told the jury she saw Barwell and O’Reilly next to a blue Capri near the River Sowe with what appeared to be a full black bin bag between them on the edge of the boot.
The prosecution suggest that Miss Sambrook, who knew both the defendants, actually saw a tent groundsheet that contained Nicola Payne’s body.
Mr Smith then revealed hairs discovered on an inner tent found behind Mr Barwell’s home in Ventor Close could be linked to the teenager.
After creating a DNA profile of Miss Payne using hair from a hair band, the jury were told that one of the strands was 900 million times more likely to have belonged to her than someone unrelated to her.
Another hair found inside the tent – believed to be a pubic hair – could be linked to O’Reilly.
On day two, the jury heard from Nicola’s mother, Marilyn Payne, who described her daughter as a happy and devoted mother to then seven-month-old son Owen – only ever leaving him for a few minutes at a time.
Mark Dennis QC, for Barwell, asked Marilyn about a number of anonymous phone calls the family received after Nicola was reported missing.
Mrs Payne said she believed they were made by one person.
Yesterday (Wednesday), the jury was told by Nicola’s brother, Dale Payne, that the teenager was not depressed when she went missing and recalled the foggy weather when he had gone looking for his sister.
Barwell and O’Reilly were first arrested in the early evening of December 17, 1991 – three days after Nicola disappeared – before being released on bail the following day – telling investigators they were both in Rugby on December 14.
The trial continues.