Nicola Bulley’s devastated family and friends have questioned the police theory that the missing dog walker fell into the river while trying to help her dog Willow.
The search for the mum-of-two has entered its ninth day, with search teams from Lancashire Police continuing to trawl the River Wyre near St Michael’s, a small village north west of Preston. Police said yesterday that they believes the 45-year-old had fallen into the river, and there was no criminal involvement.
However in a Facebook post, Nicola’s sister, Louise Cunningham, urged people to “keep an open mind” as there is “no evidence whatsoever” that she fell into the Wyre.
“Off the back of the latest Police media update, please can I add there is no evidence whatsoever that she has gone into the river, it’s just a theory,” she said. “Everyone needs to keep an open mind as not all CCTV and leads have been investigated fully, the police confirmed the case is far from over.”
While Nicola’s friend, Emma White, also cast doubt on the police theory, telling Sky News it was based on “limited information”. “When we are talking about a life we can’t base it on a hypothesis – surely we need this factual evidence,” she said.
“That’s what the family and all of us are holding on to – that we are sadly no further on than last Friday. We still have no evidence, and that’s why we’re out together in force. You don’t base life on a hypothesis.”
Police believe the 45-year-old mortgage adviser went missing in just “a 10-minute window” while she was walking her dog, Willow, close to the River Wyre, after dropping off her daughters – aged six and nine – at school. She had logged in to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am, which ended at 9.30am with her phone still connected to the call.
She was seen by another dog walker at 9.10am – the last known sighting – and police traced telephony records of her mobile phone as it remained on a bench overlooking the river at 9.20am. The device was found by a dog walker at around 9.35am, with Willow nearby.
Her partner Paul Ansell has said he “cannot get his head around” how the mother-of-two had vanished, and said his focus was on staying strong for their two daughters. The 44-year-old said his “whole focus is my two girls” and he was “hoping to goodness” that people would come forward with new information, adding that he will “never lose hope” one week on from her disappearance.
Speaking near the scene where Ms Bulley was last seen, he told broadcasters: “Every single scenario comes to a brick wall. Every single one of them. All we are doing is sitting there going round and round and round through each scenario.”
The police search has been aided by specialists and divers from HM Coastguard, mountain rescue, and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service – with sniffer dogs, drones and police helicopters deployed. Detectives are also working behind the scenes to analyse CCTV and dashcam videos, and members of the public with footage which could be useful have been urged to come forward.