|Matthew McNulty as Stefan Pope|
I first heard the story of Jennifer Pope nearly two years ago. It was, slightly oddly, in the context of a R4 'You & Yours' magazine piece about high-street banks' indifference towards families whose loved ones were missing or lost. Even then in a few short lines it was compelling. Jennifer was an English nurse who disappeared while touring in Ecuador in 2005. She had been in regular contact with her family by e-mail and one day, the e-mails stopped.
Her husband David and son Stefan knew that funds had been withdrawn from her bank account and her credit card emptied long after she disappeared, the assumption being that her card and details had been stolen, or that she was being held captive and forced to withdraw funds.
Mike Harris has worked in collaboration with Dave and Stefan in writing this hard-hitting radio play which tells the story of their journey to Ecuador to find out what happened. Dave and Stefan realise that the prime suspect is the security guard at the last hostel Jenny stayed; a man with a violent past who carries a gun and a machete in his car, whose bank account deposits match exactly those of Jennifer's 'withdrawals'.
Listening to Radio 4 afternoon plays can sometimes be a lottery (prizes of dubious value). Not here. The Disappearance of Jennifer Pope is what radio drama does best - taking you to places you probably don't want to go and placing you in situations with the question: what would I do? The story's directness and Mike Harris's typical economy makes it all the more real. Ultimately this is a life affirming story of how a father and son's loss and their confrontation with a seemingly unresponsive legal system forges a determination to find justice for the wife and mother they both love.
'The Disappearance of Jennifer Pope' is repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra, Friday 22nd January 2016 at 11.15am. It will be available on the BBC's listen again facility for the next week.