A woman who vanished while walking her dog has “two little girls that need their mummy home”, her boyfriend said as a major search continues.
Nicola Bulley, 45, from Inskip, Lancashire, was last seen three days ago at around 9.15am on Friday (27 January) while walking her dog along a towpath by the River Wyre off Garstang Road in St Michael’s on Wyre. The dog, springer spaniel Willow, was found loose between the river and bench.
Lancashire Police say her mobile phone was found on a bench near the riverbank where she was last spotted and have urged anyone with any information about her whereabouts to get in touch as they continue their “intensive” search. Police said that her mobile was still connected to a conference call when it was found by officers.
Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell, speaking from the family home in Inskip, said he spent all of Sunday searching for the mother-of-two. The engineer, who has been in a relationship with Ms Bulley for 12 years, said: “It is just perpetual hell. It is just utter disbelief.
“We are living through this but it doesn’t feel real," he continued. “All we can say is we need to find her. She’s got two little girls that need their mummy home. We have got to get some good news now.”
Mr Ansell said he or Ms Bulley, also known as Nikki, would drop the children, aged nine and six, off at a local primary school before taking Willow for a walk along the river nearby. She did the school run before heading for the dog walk on Friday, police indicated.
“I got a call from the school regarding somebody who had found Willow, and Nikki’s phone and the dog lead and harness on the bench,” Mr Ansell, who then called the police, said.
“We take the kids to school and take the dog down there – either myself or Nikki – nearly every day.”
Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser, has lived in Lancashire for 25 years but is originally from near Chelmsford, Essex, and has a southern accent.
What have police said?
In an update on Monday (30 January), officers said they are becoming increasingly concerned as more time passes.
They say they are keeping an “open mind” as to lines of enquiry and believe it is likely Ms Bulley has gone missing, as opposed to any crime having been committed. Police indicated she had done a school drop-off before going on a regular dog walk.
Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Police said on Monday: “The police are keeping a really open mind about what could have happened but we do believe that the likelihood is that Nicola has gone missing and this is not a crime inquiry, but we are keeping an open mind.”
She added that Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was still connected to a conference call when it was found by investigator. Superintendent Riley told the Mirror: “It was on a meeting call, and that was still live. It was connected to the conference call and that hadn’t been terminated.”
Urging the public to help if they can, she said: “We appeal for anyone who may have been driving through the village of St Michael’s last Friday morning at about 9.15am or who may have dashcam footage that could be of use to us, or people who may have been dog-walking in the area or on the towpath to come forward. They can ring 101 or, if they have a sighting of Nicola, 999.”
‘We are very concerned’
Ms Bulley is described as white, 5ft 3in tall, with light brown shoulder-length hair. She speaks with an Essex accent and was last seen wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellies. Her hair was tied into a ponytail. She was walking her brown-coloured spaniel immediately prior to going missing.
She is said to have connection to several places within the Lancashire area. This includes Inskip, St Michaels and Thornton Cleveleys.
Commenting on the circumstances of Ms Bulley’s disappearance, Superintendent Riley said: “The dog was found about an hour later, as was her mobile phone, so her family are very concerned, as are we. We’ve mounted a really intensive operation to try to find Nicola.”
She added that Ms Bulley’s phone was discovered on a bench near the riverbank while the dog was found loose between the river and the bench. A member of the public saw her at around 9.15am, police said, and her family informed police she had gone missing.
Superintendent Riley, who said Ms Bulley knew the area well and used to do that walk regularly, added that concern is rising as the days pass by. She said: “We’ve got a large area to search.
“People do go missing but clearly as time goes on, we become more and more concerned for Nicola. But we’re very much hoping that we will find something to try to bring her home safe and well soon.”
Searches have been carried out by Lancashire Police using the police helicopter, drones and police dogs over the weekend, with support from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team and the North West Underwater Search Team. Local community members have also organised search efforts across the St Michael’s area.
Anybody who has information should call 101, quoting log 473 of January 27, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.