Nicola Bulley latest: underwater dive expert calls off river search for missing mum saying ‘she’s not here’
Diving expert Peter Faulding said he is “baffled” after failing to find missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley in the River Wyre.
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Underwater search expert Peter Faulding dramatically called off his river search for missing mum Nicola Bulley, telling her distraught partner “she’s not here”.
The 45-year-old mortgage adviser vanished into thin air on 27 January, while walking her springer spaniel Willow along the River Wyre in St Michael’s, Lancashire. Her phone was found on a bench while on a conference call, with her dog waiting beside it.Police say they believe Nicola fell into the river and that there is no criminal involvement.
Her family called in Mr Faulding, who runs rescue operation Specialist Group International, and his team have been searching the river with an infrared camera for several days. However on 8 February, the underwater expert called off his search, saying he was “baffled” by the case.
He came to the river with Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell, 44, and told him “she’s not here” - saying both were “relieved” at that. He said: “Paul’s extremely obviously upset, he wanted to go and see where the original entry point was again, and the water’s a bit lower than it was originally when Nicola went missing.
“We are happy that the area where Nicola’s phone was found and the harness, we’ve thoroughly searched it from all the way down to the weir and up to the bridge, about a mile upstream, and we’ve confirmed to Paul that there’s nothing in that area.
“That’s been dived by police dive teams three times as well... and on the day that Nicola went missing it was dived in the afternoon, with no sign of Nicola.’
Mr Faulding said he was left “baffled” by the case - with the mum-of-two appearing to vanish into thin air. He explained: “I’ve worked on some weird cases, but this is a baffling case. For someone whose mobile phone was found there, I would’ve expected Nicola to be found that afternoon by the police dive team, normally down in the water, but there was no sign of her.
“Normally we find them, this is an unusual situation. And hopefully Nicola will appear somewhere or pop up somewhere, I don’t know. But with that, I’m, I’m totally baffled by this one, to be honest. Normally a drowning victim goes to the bottom. There was a bit of flow on the river that day. But normally we recover them within a few metres.”
Mr Faulding said previously that this made him think there could be criminal involvement in Nicola’s disappearance. Search teams from Lancashire Police and the Coastguard, including divers, are now focusing on the 10 miles or so of river downstream of the bench, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Police said have now said it was still a “possibility” she left the area by one path not covered by cameras which is crossed by the main road through the village, and officers were trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who passed along the road at the time she disappeared, around 9.20am.
Supt Sally Riley, of Lancashire Police, described the search as “unprecedented”, with 40 detectives following 500 lines of inquiry, with thousands of pieces of information coming in from the public.
But she ruled out criminal or third-party involvement and on Tuesday reiterated the police’s belief that Nicola had fallen into the river, with her body still unrecovered and police treating the incident as a missing person inquiry.
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.