Pandora Sykes: ‘In The Absence Of Fact, What Can These Families Do, Except Hold On To Their Hope?’

Pandora Sykes tells Grazia about her new podcast, The Missing.

The Missing podcast

by Rhiannon Evans |

We caught up with Pandora Sykes about her new podcast, The Missing. In Britain alone, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds - 1% of those cases are still unsolved 12 months later. Each episode of the podcast concentrates on one of those cases, and with the involvement of their family and charities, asks you to help join the conversation to find them.

In your own words, explain what The Missing podcast is about.

The Missing is about long-term missing persons cases in the UK - cases that have never been solved, so can never be closed. There are 4,500 of these 'long-term missing' cases in the UK, that have baffled the police for decades. A new organisation called Locate International, made up of ex-police detectives and criminology students, is now looking into many of those closes which have gone 'cold'. With the support of Missing People charity, the podcast aims to re-engage attention for these cases and finally give these families, closure.

It’s a huge change from the format of the High Low podcast - was that something you were keen to do?

It's a very different project to The High Low, but my work has always been quite varied. I'm interested - and this might sound cheesy - in storytelling with a purpose. I guess that's how I keep things cohesive in my head: the work has to be interesting and engaging, with a clear purpose. And The Missing has such a clear and meaningful intention: to try and solve the cases of these long-term missing, with the help of Locate.

There’s a lot of controversy now around the ideas of ‘exploiting’ murders and missing person cases for entertainment - how is this podcast different?

Totally, there are a lot of very grisly crime shows, particularly on certain streaming platforms, that I wouldn't feel comfortable watching - how do you draw the line between meaningful content and gratuitous entertainment? I remember recently hearing that some networks have stopped commissioning programmes where women get murdered because it was becoming a genre in itself. (Which says something about gendered violence, perhaps.) I think of The Missing as true crime with an ethical purpose: to solve the cases of the long-term missing. It doesn't just exist for our entertainment - or Locate and Missing People would not get involved.

READ MORE: Pandora Sykes And Dolly Alderton On Why The High Low Was Always Going To End This Year and The Things They'd Never Discuss On Air...

Is there one case in The Missing podcast that particularly affected you?

I have a two-year-old daughter, so recording the episode about Katrice Lee - a 2 year old taken from a supermarket - was quite hard to narrate. My heart just broke for her family.

What has the podcast taught you about the idea of ‘hope’?

That it's sometimes all you've got. In the absence of fact, what can these families do, except hold on to their hope? I don't just mean hope that their loved one will be found alive. I mean hope that they might find out what happened to them. That they might understand something so painful and so confusing. I think it's one thing to mourn the loss of someone you loved. It's another to mourn the loss of that person where you don't know what happened. To be denied that closure, after the trauma of losing them. I have been astounded by the strength of these families.

Were you shocked by the huge numbers of people who are long-term missing? Do you think it’s something people are aware of?

I had no idea how many long-term missing there were. I'd never even heard that phrase before I started working on the show. I wasn't unfamiliar with cases that are never 'solved' - we all the know the story of Madeleine McCann, for instance - but I didn't know how many cases were never solved and therefore, never closed. The police cannot investigate every single case for decades; they don't have the time, or the financial resources. Which is why Locate is such a brilliant organisation: ex-police detectives who are volunteering their time, alongside students, to try and help these families finally find closure.

The next episode of The Missing podcast, episode 2, will be out on Monday, December 21.

Subscribe to ‘The Missing’ here

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