1. ITV Report

BLOG: Will her parents ever know where Nicola is?

Our reporter Keith Wilkinson shares his experiences of covering the story over the years.

From the very early days of Nicola Payne's disappearance I have known her parents, John and Marilyn, frequently witnessing their distress as the years went by.

First they faced panic. Why has she not come home? Is someone keeping her prisoner somewhere? Is she lying injured in the cold of winter, and the fog?

She is thought to have walked across a patch of land known as the Black Pad. Credit: West Midlands Police

Then as the hours and days went by they had to confront their greatest fear, especially as one of the biggest police searches ever mounted drew a blank.

  • Had someone killed their beautiful daughter?
John and Marilyn always knew Nicola would not voluntarily walk out on her baby son. Credit: ITV News Central

It was terrible for them to give up the hope they clutched - that maybe, just maybe, one day she would turn up, alive.

But John and Marilyn always knew Nicola would not voluntarily walk out on her baby son, Owen. She loved her little boy, deeply.

They knew in their hearts the dreadful reality that either Nicola was still alive, and being held somewhere against her will, or that she had been murdered, and her body hidden.

Over the next 24 years, mostly around the Christmas time anniversaries, they shared their very personal and private thoughts with the public.

They, of course, didn't want to do endless interviews. Each time was full of sorrow. Each time brought back painful memories. But what they didn't want was for their Nicola to disappear all over again. This time from the public eye.

  • They didn't want their Nicola to disappear all over again
To this day, Nicola has never been found. Credit: Family Handout

West Midlands Police have said they never, ever close a murder investigation. But the Paynes have always known the best way of keeping the case alive was to keep it in the media spotlight.

Vast numbers of people go missing every year. Some have long been forgotten. But thanks to Nicola's parents, her case is well known not only in Coventry but all over the West Midlands and even across the country.

To this day, Nicola has never been found. There have been many searches of gardens and wasteland, a number of digs to look for clues or even a body.

And now, more than anything, John and Marilyn want her body to be found. It's ghastly for them to even contemplate that appalling prospect. But without a body, they will never know where she is.

  • Nicola’s mum says she feels she has let her daughter down

Marilyn told me how she feels a sense of guilt that they have not been able to bring Nicola home; as if somehow she has let her daughter down.

Of course everyone knows she has nothing to feel guilty about. These parents have devoted nearly 24 years of their lives to finding their girl. They have done everything they could for Nicola.

Now to ease their utter despair, the one hope they have left is that Nicola's remains will come to light, that at long last they will be able to lay her to rest. And to say a loving goodbye.

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