A timeline of the last known movements of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley has been released, revealing a possible 10-minute window in which she vanished into thin air.
The 45-year-old went missing on Friday 27 January while walking her dog Willow by the River Wyre in Lancashire. Police are urgently searching for the mother, and her family have launched a public appeal asking anyone with information to come forward as “two little girls need their mummy home”.
The force has said they believe Nicola has fallen in the river, and do not think there is any criminal involvement. Supt Sally Riley said the force suspects Nicola’s dog Willow may have had an issue by the water’s edge, which caused her to fall in.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday (2 February), nearly a week after the disappearance, Nicola’s heartbroken sister Louise Cunningham said it feels like she is “stuck in a nightmare.” She urged people who were in the area to contact the police, commenting: “Something has got to have been missed. Somebody must know something. People don’t just vanish into thin air.”
Nicola’s parents, Ernest and Dot Bulley, also spoke of their “dread” at the thought of never seeing their daughter again, and of hearing their grandchildren “sobbing” after being told “mummy is lost”.
Nicola was seen walking Willow twice on the morning she went missing - with both sightings less than an hour before her phone was found on a nearby bench, still logged into a work call. Here’s a full timeline of the events leading up to her sudden disappearance.
Timeline of Nicola Bulley’s last known movements
Friday 27 January, 8:43am: Nicola, having dropped her two daughters, aged six and nine, off at their nearby school, walked her dog along a towpath by the River Wyre. The path was just off Garstang Road in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
8:50am (approximately): A local dog walker, who knows Nicola, saw her walking around the lower field. Nicola’s dog, a springer spaniel named Willow, briefly interacted with the witness’s dog. The witness then left the field via the river path.
8:53am: Nicola, who works as a mortgage advisor, sent an email to her boss from her phone.
8:57am: Nicola sent a text message to a friend whose mortgage she had recently signed off, to arrange a playdate for their daughters. The local, who told The Mirror about the text message, claimed this was evidence that Nicola had no intention of voluntarily disappearing, remarking: “You wouldn’t have done that if you were going to get up and go missing”.
9:01am: Nicola logged into a Microsoft Teams call.
9:10am: A different witness, who also knows Nicola, saw the mum-of-two with her dog Willow, in the upper field. This is the last known sighting of Nicola.
9:20am: Police believe Nicola’s phone was left on a bench at this point - which means there is just a ten-minute window in which the police cannot account for her movements.
9:30am: The Teams call which Nicola joined at 9:01am ended. However, Nicola’s phone stayed logged on.
9:35am (approximately): Nicola’s dog Willow was found loose by another dog walker, near a bench by the river. Nicola’s mobile phone was found on the bench - still connected to the conference call.
Later (time unclear): Paul Ansell, Nicola’s partner, received a phone call from the children’s school about someone who had found Willow and Nicola’s phone. He then called the police.
Lancashire Police subsequently launched an “intensive” search of the area - which is still ongoing. On Thursday (2 February), the force announced it was seeking a potential witness, who was seen walking a small, white dog on Allotment Lane - near to where Nicola went missing. The woman has since been in contact with the police and told them she never saw Nicola.
Paul Ansell, Nicola’s partner, spoke out on 3 February about her disappearance: “I don’t know how I am coping. I don’t want to think about that. I am just focused on the girls.”
The 44-year-old continued: “Every single scenario comes to a brick wall. All we are doing is sitting there going round and round and round through each scenario. We’re never, ever going to lose hope, of course we’re not, but it is as though she has vanished into thin air. It’s just insane.”
‘No criminal involvement’
Lancashire Police has said they do not believe Nicola has been attacked or abducted, but likely fell into the river. Supt Riley said: “Our main working hypothesis is that Nicola has suddenly fallen into the river, that there’s no third party or criminal involvement, and that this is not suspicious but a tragic case of a missing person.
“This is particularly important because speculation otherwise can be really distressing for the family and for Nicola’s children.”
She said an “issue” with Ms Bulley’s dog may have caused her to place her phone on the bench and go to assist Willow. Supt Riley continued: “I don’t wish to speculate, in that we don’t know, but it is possible as the dog was loose and off the lead.
“There may have been an issue with the dog that led her to the water’s edge, she puts her phone down to go and deal with the dog momentarily, and Nicola may have fallen in. We assume the dog didn’t get into the river, but we don’t know why Nicola may have if she did.”
Anybody who has seen Nicola, or has information about where she might be, is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. She is white, 5ft 3in, with light brown shoulder-length hair. She was last seen wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive-green ankle wellies, and her hair was tied into a ponytail. For immediate sightings please call 999.