Nicola Bulley red van: what have witnesses said about missing mum, are police searching for ‘tatty red van’?
We asked the police if officers are investigating the “tatty red van” which witnesses claim they saw on the day Nicola Bulley disappeared
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The mum-of-two went missing two weeks ago on Friday (27 January) in the Lancashire village of St Michael’s on Wyre. Police are continuing to comb the area for Nicola, 45, with search teams spotted on the River Wyre, miles from where she was last seen.
The Independent reports that two witnesses claimed to have seen a “tatty red van” in the village on the morning Nicola disappeared. A 55-year-old witness said they saw “tatty red van in Hall Lane outside a barn”. They added: “I didn’t think anything at the time, but when I saw Nicola had gone missing, I called 101 and spoke to an operator.”
The witness also claims to have contacted the police again and said that the van could have been a Renault vehicle and that it was the sort “you can live in”. A second witness told The Sun that they had reported seeing a red van which “looked suspicious” at around 9.40am on the same day.
Police have consistently ruled out foul play, and said they believe missing Nicola fell into the river. However, Peter Faulding, the underwater search expert called in to help by the family, has said he is surprised he hasn’t found her in the water, and said there could be criminal involvement.
NationalWorld has asked Lancashire Constabulary if they are investigating the red van. Here is all you need to know:
Are police investigating a red van?
The force did not respond to NationalWorld’s request for comment, but did post a tweet on Friday, 10 February, evening stating officers were looking to speak to the driver.
It said: “We are aware of reports in the media about a red van being reported to us and we would like to stress that whilst we are making efforts to identify the owner at this time there is nothing to suggest this was anything other than one of many 100s of vehicles in the area that morning.
“It remains the case that at the present time there is absolutely nothing in all the extensive enquiries we have made that suggests anything untoward has happened or that there is any third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance, but the investigation is ongoing.”
When and where did Nicola Bulley go missing?
Nicola was last seen around 9.15am on 27 January. She had dropped off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school, then took Willow, her springer spaniel, for a walk alongside the River Wyre. Police believe she fell in while on the walk, leaving her phone on a bench, still connected to a work call.
Lancashire Police have dismissed any suggestion Nicola is a victim of crime and say the scale of the missing person inquiry is “unprecedented”, involving 40 detectives and following 500 lines of inquiry. Multiple searches of the “hot-spot” area near the bench, the suspected “entry point” of where Nicola went into the water, have been conducted by police divers and underwater search experts.
Nicola’s family called in help from Peter Faulding, of Specialist Group International, but after a three-day search earlier this week, no trace of her was found. He said his searches confirmed Nicola was not in the section of river searched by his team and police divers, but described himself as “baffled” after ending his fruitless search.
Police ask for dashcam footage
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, Garstang Road, and officers were trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who passed along the road at the time she disappeared, around 9.20am. Hall Lane - where the “tatty red van” was allegedly seen - is the road which exits the village to the south.
Search area widens in hunt to find Nicola Bulley
Police search teams were spotted on the River Wyre, miles from where Nicola was last seen. A dinghy with two officers on board could be seen on the water, as the focus of the massive search shifted from where she vanished to farther downstream, towards where the River Wyre empties into the Irish Sea at Morecambe Bay.
An orange rescue boat was also spotted appearing to do sweeps of the river off Knott End-on-Sea, at the mouth of the bay, around 10 miles downstream from where the 45-year-old vanished on 27 January.
Silent vigil held for Nicola
The mortgage advisor and her family would attend medieval St Michael’s Church on the banks of the River Wyre, just a couple of hundred yards from where she disappeared. The silent vigil was held before a small altar, with candles lit around a photo of smiling Nicola and her partner, Paul Ansell.
Outside, lining the road through the village, friends of the missing woman again gathered for another roadside appeal. They held up placards featuring her photograph, in a plea to “bring Nikki home” and appealing for information.
Heather Gibbons, a family friend who attended the church vigil, said: “It’s the hub in the community, it’s a place where we’ve frequently been with Nikki. She would often be here with her girls and with Paul. So yes, I’m sat in there thinking of the times where I’ve sat next to her, in the church, and really wishing I could go back … just, yeah, wishing she was here.
“That’s exactly what it is, it’s an agonising wait, it’s almost a hell above hell, because the unknown is unbearable. So, this morning at 10 o’clock we just opened the church for people to come and to light a candle, just to have a chance to come, a space to collect their thoughts, to be together.
“It’s not a vigil in that we’ve lost hope, it’s almost trying to create that moment of hope for everybody to keep supporting one another. We just needed a space to be able to think and pray and collect our thoughts for the family and for Nikki.
“There’s been a lovely little turnout of people who just wanted to come and have that moment. The family are on the worst rollercoaster of their lives, they are still holding on to hope, that there’s a chance we will get Nikki home safe.
“They have the same thinking that nothing is making sense. They are just desperate for some evidence that will pinpoint exactly what has happened.”