Series 5 • The Disappearance of Nicola Payne

A raw and compelling, podcast following Host and Investigative Reporter, Mark Williams-Thomas, as he re-investigates one of the biggest unsolved murder cases in the country that has baffled the police for almost 30 years.

In a UK first, Mark puts his own money and reputation on the line to conduct a thorough re-investigation into the disappearance and murder of 18-year old Nicola Payne, to try to give answers to her family and find out where her remains could be.

With full support from Nicola’s grieving family, total access to all of West Midlands polices case files, and the UK’s top private forensic search team, our podcast captures the twists and turns of a very real investigation.

Saturday 14 December 1991 – Coventry. 18-year-old mum-of-one Nicola Payne set off from her boyfriend’s house to walk the short distance to the home she shared with her parents, across an area called the ‘black pad’. Although it was just a 10-minute walk, she never made it to her parents’ house. She simply vanished.

Nearly 30 years on, her body has never been found. It’s the biggest and most expensive unsolved case in the history of West Midlands Police – and one of the biggest in the UK, which they are desperate to solve, hence their total co-operation.

Within 48 hours of her disappearance two men, Barwell and O’Reilly, were arrested on suspicion of Nicola’s abduction and murder. They gave an alibi which at that time could not be broken and, although they went on the run whilst on bail and changed their identity meaning they could not be picked out at an ID parade, the police did not have enough evidence to charge them.

At the time the police found several items of significance, but forensics was in its infancy.

In 2015, nearly 25 years after Nicola’s disappearance, a cold-case investigation team made a crucial discovery with the case evidence; advancements in forensics resulted in finding Nicola’s DNA on the tent bag recovered in 1991. Both men, Barwell and O’Reilly, were charged with her murder. At their Crown Court trial the defence argued that the evidence linking the suspects to Nicola had been contaminated whilst in police care. Subsequently, both men were acquitted.

Nicola’s family were desperate for another breakthrough but the police leads had gone cold again. All her, now elderly parents, want is to bring Nicola home so they can bury her. In 2018 they asked Mark to re-investigate her disappearance, to seek answers and to try and find Nicola.

Mark Williams-Thomas has agreed to help the family and re-investigate the disappearance and murder of Nicola Payne, to date he has done it all pro bono, Mark believes the answers lie within the community and is determined to find them. Mark’s investigation, gives listeners an all-access pass to see what it’s like to undertake a cold case murder investigation.

Series 4 • The Murder of Lee Boxell

Lee Boxell was 15 when he disappeared. On the morning of Saturday 10 September 1988, Lee left his home in Cheam, to meet with a friend at 11am in nearby Sutton.

Lee and his friend parted company at 1pm, at which time Lee said he might go to Selhurst Park to watch a football match match between Charlton Athletic and Millwall. Despite extensive appeals on television and in the press, no one has come forward with any confirmed sightings of Lee at any of the football grounds in the area.

Several years later, a witness stated that Lee attended an unofficial youth club at St Dunstan’s Church in Cheam, known as “The Shed”.

Following extensive inquires the police found out that several paedophiles were operating in the area at the time Lee disappeared, one of whom ran the unofficial youth club and was jailed for eleven years in 2011, aged 75, after sexually abusing several girls who attended the club.

Our investigation in to Lee’s disappearance has taken almost three years and our findings are revealed in this podcast. We uncover new witnesses, new evidence and, for the first time, interview two of the suspects, who have never spoken publicly before.

We also speak to several of the adult children of the prime suspect to gain an insight in to what kind of person he is, and one of them takes us to an area where he believes his father may have disposed of Lee’s body.

Content warning: This series contains interviews with victims of sexual abuse and discusses the murder of a child, which some listeners may find distressing.

The CrimeStoppers charity are offering a £20,000 reward for information relating to Lee’s murder: 

The images and evidence discussed in the podcast can be viewed here

(We have a special fast-release schedule for Series 4, with all episodes being released the same day.)

Series 3 • Mary Flanagan – Missing or Murdered?

Mary Flanagan was aged 16 when she disappeared from her home in the area of West Ham in London on New Year’s Eve, 1959. Mary is the UK’s longest missing persons’ case.

Mary was born on 9 June 1943 into a London-Catholic family. She had two sisters, Eileen and Brenda and a brother Kevin, they lived at Wallace Road, E15 at the time of her disappearance; this road no longer exists.

She was working at both the Tate and Lyle sugary factory and for an optician in Stratford.

Mary’s sister, Brenda, gives a background to the family dynamics and sets the scene of 1959 compared to today. Brenda then explains the events leading up to Mary’s disappearance.

We also find out that in the weeks leading up to Mary’s disappearance she was leaving for work every day, at Tate and Lyle, even though in fact she was not actually going in to work – so where was she going?

Brenda explains that in the 6 months before, she was introduced to a man from the docks by her father and that they became engaged. This person, from the memory of the family, was called Tom and he worked in the Merchant Navy.

Following a re-investigation by the police in 2013 they were unable to establish who Tom was.

However, they were having to work without sight of the initial police investigation files which the police say were destroyed in a flood years earlier. So, it is very likely that the Tom’s details would have been in this file.

One thought that the family have is that Mary could have been pregnant, causing her to leave home for fear of how her very religious Catholic parents would react.

The podcast explores two sightings after Mary went missing, one by someone known to Mary and other decades later in Scotland – could these have been Mary?

A few years ago, to try to assist the public, the Missing People charity commissioned forensic artist Tim Widden to create a facial age-progression image.

The podcast hears from Missing People case manager Amy Walker, who discusses the complex background to missing cases.

There is no doubt that if the original missing person report from 1959 had not been destroyed it would have contained vital information, especially about Tom.

Perhaps Tom had nothing to do with Mary’s disappearance – but my gut feeling I that he certainly could have provided vital information.

What we will never know is if the police took Mary’s disappearance seriously and investigated it or just went through the motions.

Very frustratingly we can’t be certain what happened to Mary – but what is certain is that aged 16 she was able to stay completely of the radar, which was much easier in 1960’s than it is today with modern CCTV, and external monitoring factors. But even then, it would not have been easy.

She certainly fits the profile suitable for abduction and murder – which could explain why she never re-surfaced in any proof-of-life enquiries.

If she was murdered then her killer has managed to successfully dispose of her body.

Very sadly Mary remains one of the hundreds of young people who have simply vanished, leaving their loved ones forever heart broken.

It is for these people that the not knowing never gets any easier.

If you have any information about Mary or her whereabouts, please call Newham police’s Missing Persons Unit on 020 82175728 or call the charity Missing People anonymously on 116 000

Mary’s sister, Brenda, has written a letter to Mary in the hope that she will read it and make contact, the letter can be viewed along with the other images and evidence here

Series 2 • What if it’s Not Murder?

This case looks into the 2007 conviction of Mindy Sanghera for murder. Jailed for the stabbing to death of 17-year-old Sana Ali, a 17-year-old who was 11 weeks pregnant. Sana was the wife of playboy businessman Sair Ali, a Muslim with whom Mindy was having an affair.

The case against Mindy Sanghera was largely based on circumstantial evidence – there was no forensic proof that she stabbed Mr Ali’s wife, Sana, 43 times and plunged a knife into her womb at her home in Manchester.

Sanghera is currently serving a minimum 14-year life term, at Foston Hall women’s prison in Derbyshire.


Here are the two sides cases:

Prosecution case: was that Mindy had gained entry to the house using subterfuge when Sana was alone, that she had brought a box of chocolates as a present, that she had also brought a knife, that she stabbed Sana and that she left via a kitchen window.

That on 11th May 2007 Mindy arrived at the address where Sana lived with her husband Sair, at his family’s home, to confront her and tell her that her husband had been in a two-year affair with her. An argument and fight occurred and Mindy violently stabbed Sana 43 times killing her. They state Sana fought back and as a result got defence knife wounds. Mindy then made her escape through the kitchen window. Prosecution found evidence of an up and a down footprint on the work surface. No blood found on any clothing worn by Mindy on the day, or her mobile or in her car. The knife was not identified as belonging to anyone, although Police state Mindy must have brought it with her to the scene. This make of knife was available to be purchased in shops in Birmingham and Manchester.

The police state Mindy did not have blood on her hands or clothes because she wore a full forensic suit; a mask, suit, two pairs of gloves and shoe covers.

They state Mindy disposed of the full forensic suit that she had brought in an incinerator at her hospital, there is no direct evidence to support this.


Defence case: That Mindy told at least three people she was going to see Sana and spoke to her closest friend Sheetal just before she went into the house to see Sana, and again immediately after she left the house.

Mindy states that she entered and left the house via the backdoor and took her shoes off. She climbed up on the work surface to shut a window for Sana and hence the reason why her footprints were found on work-surface.

Whilst she was in the house, Sana told Mindy she cuts herself as the only way to cope with the situation. Sana told Mindy she knew her husband was having an affair, but actually says it was with someone else.

There was no forensic link between Mindy and Sana and no wounds on Mindy’s body. Mindy is recorded on a petrol station cctv system on the morning of Sana’s death before she visits her, which identifies her clothing. Three days later after her arrest, the exact clothes that she wore on the Friday when visiting Sana were over a chair in her bedroom. They were seized by police and no blood is found on them. It is Mindy who tells her mum and then her dad on the Friday and Saturday that she had been to see Sana. It is having heard that Sana was dead that Mindy contacts the police to tell them about her visit.

The knife left at the scene next to Sana’s body, cannot be connected to Mindy and had no prints on it from her.


In Summary

The case was initially dealt with as a suicide and it was not until the postmortem examination that they decided the injuries amounted to homicide. It was from this point that police then looked for a suspect and, having ruled out the husband Sair, focused on Mindy.

Mindy’s account has been consistent throughout and she told her family and friends about the window and shutting it before it became a central strand of the police’s case.

The significance of the window as being the way Mindy left is because the police needed to show that Sana was dead by the time Mindy left. Mindy says Sana let her out the kitchen door and was alive, hence the reason the backdoor was locked. But the police say Sana was dead by the time Mindy left so she could not have let her out and locked the door after her. When the sister in law’s arrived, the back door was locked.

So, if Sana was dead when Mindy left then Mindy would have had to have left via another means, in their case the kitchen window.

Mindy admits to visiting Sana on that afternoon – however after a violent attack no forensic evidence linked Mindy to the crime – knife, blood etc.

But could there have been a miscarriage of justice? Does the evidence collected by the Police stand up to scrutiny? Or do you believe the truth is very different?

In this 5-part podcast we hear from many people involved in the case, including their family members, the police, lawyers and a leading forensic expert.

It’s then up to you to decide…

  • Did the pathologist and the police get it wrong?
  • Is an innocent woman behind bars?


You can view the evidence here

Series 1 • The Musketeers

This case looks into the emotive, dangerous and highly secretive world of terrorism. In August 2017, three men, who dubbed themselves the Three Musketeers, were found guilty of planning a terror attack on a police or military target in the UK. A fourth man was also convicted for his involvement in the plot. 

Two of the men, who were under surveillance by the authorities, were employed by a fake courier company in Birmingham, set up by West Midland police, working in partnership with the MI5, the British Security Services. While MI5 officers were placing covert bugs in a vehicle belonging to one of the men, an undercover police officer discovered in the rear footwell  a bag containing items including a hand-gun, ammunition and a partially constructed pipe-bomb.

Following the find the 4 men were arrested and subsequently put on trial. They all denied knowing or having and knowledge of the bag or its content. The case was heard at the Old Bailey, much of it in secret, and after 16 weeks, jurors found all four men, Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain, Mohibur Rahman and Tahir Aziz, guilty.

But could there have been a miscarrige of justice? Does the evidence collected by the Police stand up to scrutiny? Do YOU think these men are guilty?

In this podcast we delve into the background of these men. We hear from many people involved in the case, including their family members, the lawyer for the defence and a leading security expert.

It’s then up to you to decide…

  • Could Police corruption be at the heart of a major terrorist case?
  • A true terrorist threat, or are innocent men behind bars?


You can view the evidence here