24th Nov, 2017

Witnesses claim one of the defendants in Nicola Payne trial admitted to murder

Coventry Editorial 30th Oct, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

TWO witnesses claimed one of the defendants in the Nicola Payne murder trial admitted to killing the Coventry mum, a jury heard.

But both the men’s defence barristers have suggested the accounts are nonsense.

Nigel Barwell, of Copperas Street, and Thomas O’Reilly, of Ribble Road, both 51, have been accused of abducting and killing the teenager who went missing from the Wood End area of the city on December 14, 1991. Both defendants deny the allegations.

Paul Southern and Matthew Brown were both called to the stand last Thursday (October 22).

The court heard Mr Barwell had told the two men on separate dates he killed the mother-of-one.

Mr Southern said he knew Barwell and O’Reilly through his friend Colin Jones.

He added he was giving the defendants a lift to Mr Jones’ house in Rugby in February 1992 when he heard an argument about a woman.

He said he thought Barwell had been ‘playing away’ but was told by Barwell that he ‘wasn’t playing about’ and that he ‘did that Payne bird’.

Mr Southern said O’Reilly then added: “You don’t know the half of it.”

The court heard in March last year Mr Southern had told police, for the first time, how he had been asked to give the defendants an alibi.

He said he was sitting in the pub when his friend Mr Brown approached him to ask if he would be prepared to do such a thing.

“I was in enough trouble as it was. I didn’t want to be in any more,” Mr Southern said.

Mark Dennis QC, defending Barwell, asked why his friend would think he was the type of person who would be open to such a thing.

Mr Southern replied he thought it was because he ‘had been in trouble in the past’.

He added Mr Brown had asked him if he would be willing to say they were with them at a certain time, but he refused.

Mr Dennis claimed this had never happened. He then asked Mr Southern if he had spent time trying to remember the details he had struggled to recall earlier in the day, by thinking back about it over lunch on Thursday (October 22).

Mr Southern denied this, before the defence barrister replied: “May I suggest there is nothing to remember if it is false.”

Mr Brown told the court he was first introduced to the defendants in Rugby by Mr Jones before they all went back to Mr Jones’ flat for a drink.

The court heard during this time Nicola Payne’s name was mentioned.

Mr Brown claimed Barwell had said they killed her and asked if he would give them an alibi for the night Nicola disappeared by saying they were out drinking or had seen them out in Rugby.

He said he agreed to the request and added: “I did not know who Nicola was, I didn’t think it was serious.

“I thought they had just come over from the city giving it the big one.

“We didn’t think he was serious – I didn’t believed a word or it and I don’t think Colin did either.”

Rachel Brand QC, defending O’Reilly, said to Mr Brown: “You could have been anyone – you could have been an upstanding member of society who was shocked by crime.”

She asked why Barwell would admit to a complete stranger he killed/murdered someone. before she questioned why Mr Brown had failed to mention the confession to the police until March 2014, despite having numerous opportunities to do so.

Ms Brand then asked Mr Brown if it was fair to say that, in the 1990s, he spent his time going out on ‘smash grabs to steal fags and booze’.

Mr Brown said: “It’s what I enjoyed doing, I would fight with anybody – I was young and wild and did what I wanted to do.”

Ms Brand added: “You’re a throughly dishonest person and like your friend Paul a complete opportunist.”

She added if there was a ‘word of truth’ concerning the alibi and confession to murder, “you would have shouted it from the roof tops, not waited 22 years.”

The trial continues.

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