'Something's not right': Dive squad brought into Nicola Bulley hunt say they will 'find her if she is in the river'

6 February 2023, 07:56 | Updated: 6 February 2023, 16:35

Diver Peter Faulding (r) says 'something not right' in the search for Nicola Bulley
Diver Peter Faulding (r) says 'something not right' in the search for Nicola Bulley. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Nicola Bulley is likely to be found 'in minutes' if she fell into the river near where was reported missing, with a private dive squad admitting the freezing waters would have likely 'taken her breath away'.

Surrey-based underwater forensics team Specialist Group International (SGI) has offered its services to Lancashire Police for free as the search for the 45-year-old mum-of-two continues.

Ms Bulley was last seen walking her Spaniel Willow in St Michaels on Wyre on January 27 and has not been seen since.

Peter Faulding, founder of Specialist Group International, has confirmed SGI will be using its ‘top of the market’ 18,000khz side scan sonar worth around £55,000 to find Ms Bulley.

He added that a full search of the river could take 'three days', noting his only aim was to 'bring closure for the family'.

If Nicola fell into the river, it is likely she would have been "snagged" within around 500 metres from the point of entry, Mr Faulding said, noting the shallow depth of the water.

Mr Faulding told the Mirror: “If Nicola is in there, we will find her. If she’s there, our sonar will pick her up straight away. I will see a body on the bottom.

He said he thinks Ms Bulley, 45, would not have gone far if she did fall in due to the shallow depth, but the shock of the cold water could have "taken her breath away". 

However, he believes she could have been able to get herself out and that she would not be dragged down. "Normally people would scream out and I don't know if there was other people in the area but you'd scream out, you'd flap around and the dog would normally maybe stay with the owner. There's something, in my opinion, not quite right here," he added.

Read more: Extra divers called in to search for Nicola Bulley as images released of her latest appearance

Ms Bulley went missing while she walked her dog
Ms Bulley went missing while she walked her dog. Picture: Lancashire Police

"We are dealing with about 10 drownings every summer. We always locate within the hour. It’s that quick, it’s that good.

“Nicola wouldn’t have gone far if she was in this river because it’s got shallows and she would get lodged. There’s no way she would have gone out to the estuary. The river’s not in flood, it’s benign.”

Mr Fauling said he believes Nicola could have had her breath taken away by cold water shock, which could have led to her drowning.

But he also said if she is a good swimmer - which her friends have said she is - she may have been able to pull herself from the river if she fell in while still conscious.

It comes after amateur sleuths and people who call themselves clairvoyant were asked to stop speculating about Nicola Bulley's disappearance.

Lancashire Police said the helpline set up to provide information on the mother-of-two's whereabouts have been inundated with self-described psychics claiming to know what happened to her.

Meanwhile, a neighbour of Ms Bulley's said she has seen a man questioning people and discussing "crackpot theories". He has apparently gone to hundreds of other missing person cases.

Police are searching the river on the belief Ms Bulley may have fallen in
Police are searching the river on the belief Ms Bulley may have fallen in. Picture: Lancashire Police

"It's upsetting to hear this sort of stuff from someone who has just turned up for their own interest," the unnamed neighbour said.

It has been claimed two amateur detectives arrived from Leeds with a camera to record "evidence".

Heather Gibbons, a friend of Ms Bulley's, said the community in St Michael's on Wyre was trying to "rise above" the amateur detectives.

It comes as friends of the family asked people to stop speculating about what happened. Police condemned online speculation about the family and abuse they have received.

Meanwhile, police have drafted in specialist divers to help with the search.

Forensics expert Peter Faulding and a team will take part after initially being refused permission to join.

"We have just heard from the family of Nicola Bulley to confirm that the underwater search team from SGI will be deployed to assist @LancsPolice in the search," Mr Faulding said.

Earlier on Sunday, newly released doorbell footage showed missing mother Nicola loading the car before a school run on the day she disappeared.

Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen early on Friday, January 27, as she walked her dog on a towpath along the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre.

Read more: Head of £42,000-a-year Epsom College found dead with husband and seven-year-old daughter on school grounds

Private Search Team Join Police In Hunt For Missing Nicola Bulley
Private Search Team Join Police In Hunt For Missing Nicola Bulley. Picture: Getty

Her mobile phone was found on a nearby bench and police have confirmed it was still connected to a Teams conference call when it was found.

The dog's harness and lead was also found on a bench while the springer spaniel was found loose and in an "agitated" state between the river and bench and was found around an hour after she was last seen.

Nicola is described as white, 5ft 3in, with light brown shoulder-length hair.

At the time of going missing, she was wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellington boots.

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