Diving specialist insists Nicola Bulley 'can't be at sea' after distraught partner says 'local is responsible'

11 February 2023, 14:59 | Updated: 11 February 2023, 15:23

Nicola Bulley's partner said he believes 'someone in the village knows' something about her disappearance
Nicola Bulley's partner said he believes 'someone in the village knows' something about her disappearance. Picture: Alamy/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A diving specialist who assisted in the police search for Nicola Bulley has insisted the missing mum-of two 'can't be at sea' as if she had fallen in the river, he would have found her.

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Peter Faulding spent three days helping police divers scour the River Wyre with specialist Sonar equipment near to where Ms Bulley was last seen in Lancashire.

Mr Faulding, who previously told LBC he did not believe Ms Bulley had fallen into the river, ended his team's search on Wednesday having found "no sign" of the mum-of-two.

The 45-year-old was last seen on a dog walk along a towpath at around 9.15am on January 27, in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire.

The search for Ms Bulley has now moved to the Morecambe Bay coastline, but Mr Faulding said there is "no way" she will be found there.

Diving specialist Peter Faulding joined the search for Nicola Bulley this week
Diving specialist Peter Faulding joined the search for Nicola Bulley this week. Picture: Getty

"Even in the unlikely event [her body] made it over the weir there are too many shallow areas. It would get jammed, and people would see [the body]," he told MailOnline.

It comes after Nicola Bulley's partner said he believes something must have happened to the missing mother-of-two "in the village" of St Michael's on Wyre, as the search enters its 16th day.

Paul Ansell insisted that Nicola "is coming home" and that he can't "think of any other option" as he renewed his appeal for information in the search for the missing dog walker.

Partner of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, Paul Ansell, (right) visiting the riverside with Peter Faulding
Partner of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, Paul Ansell, (right) visiting the riverside with Peter Faulding. Picture: Alamy

Speaking to Channel 5 on Friday, Mr Ansell said that "nothing" about the situation feels real, and that he believes something must have happened to Nicola in the nearby village.

Paul Ansell said he was "100 per cent" that the 45-year-old did not fall in the water as the police theorised, calling for them to widen their search to all nearby homes and outbuildings.

Read more: Nicola Bulley's partner 'shocked' over river search and 'doesn't think she went in', says diving expert

Read more: Three CCTV blind spots could hold the key to Nicola Bulley's disappearance as police trawl dashcam footage

Police divers and private specialists have scoured the river near where she was last seen, but there has been no trace of her.

Mr Ansell said, despite feeling "anger", "utter frustration" and "confusion", the family will never give up hope of finding Ms Bulley, adding he was "never, ever going to let go".

"Nikki would never give up on us ever. She wouldn't give up on anybody. And we're not gonna ever give up on her like, we're going to find her," he said.

He went on to say: "There has to be a way to find out what happened, there has to be. You cannot, you cannot walk your dog down a river and just vanish into thin air. Something happened that day, something..."

He said the family had replayed several scenarios in their heads over and over since she disappeared and that it was “enough to make you go crazy”.

A police Search and Rescue team scan the banks of the River Wyre near to Shard Bridge
A police Search and Rescue team scan the banks of the River Wyre near to Shard Bridge. Picture: Getty

"For the last two weeks, we've literally just gone over and over and over it and then you get to a brick wall for every single scenario that you talk about," he told 5 news.

"None of them make sense. And then you go back to the beginning and you start again.

"And it's not I mean, you have to be careful because it is enough to make you go is enough to make you go crazy, to be honest. It’s just not a normal situation is it."

Lancashire Police said Ms Bulley "may have" gone into the river but continues to look at all "potential scenarios".

Mr Ansell explained that the fact nothing had been found in the river made the family think "the mobile phone and the harness and everything, it could, it could possibly be a decoy".

“No item of clothing or anything has been found anywhere where you would've thought something would've again, if, it was the river, something would've shown up somewhere,” he said.

Candles illuminate a photo of missing woman Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell at St Michael's Church
Candles illuminate a photo of missing woman Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell at St Michael's Church. Picture: Getty

Describing the impact on his children, Mr Ansell said: "What any parent knows you know, that all you wanna to do is make everything better for your children isn't it… and I can't you know, I can't do that.

"The only thing, the only thing that I can do is tell them that everybody is looking for mummy.

"The best people like, in the world are looking for mummy, just to give them that, you know, that level of hope that they can understand that everything that can be done to find mummy, is being done."

He added: "It just doesn't feel real… I feel like I'm in the Truman show.

"I honestly believe I'm going to wake up at any moment…how are we even in this? We are good people."

In an update on Friday, police said: "Throughout this investigation we have been keeping an open mind about what might have happened to Nicola, and we continue to look at all the potential scenarios to eliminate them.

"We are reviewing our decisions regularly.

"Based on all the work we have done up to now our belief remains that Nicola may have fallen into the river for some reason, but we are continuing to investigate all possible leads, and this involves viewing CCTV, Dashcam footage and speaking to people who are providing us with information."

Police search teams on the River Wyre on Sunday
Police search teams on the River Wyre on Sunday. Picture: Alamy

It comes after the expert diver who led the river search for the missing mum-of-two first revealed earlier that Mr Ansell "doesn't think [Ms Bulley] went in the river".

Peter Faulding said Mr Ansell was growing less convinced with the police theory that she fell in the water.

"He was shocked at how shallow the rocks were yesterday," Mr Faulding said.

"He thought it was really deep there. If she had gone in she would have landed on the rocks," he told the Sun.

"The family thanked us for being here. They said 'You've given us confidence now' and his belief is that Nicola has not gone in that river."

The search for the missing mother extended to the sea as it reached the end of the second week since she vanished.

Nicola Bulley went missing two weeks ago
Nicola Bulley went missing two weeks ago. Picture: Social media

A candlelit vigil was held for Ms Bulley at a local church on Friday, marking the end of the second week searching for her.

Worried locals sat in The Parish Church of St Michaels on Wyre, next to the river which police have suspected she fell into, and lit candles for her.

A photo of her and her devastated partner was placed at the front.

Meanwhile, people lined the sides of the road through St Michael's on Wyre, holding photos of her asking if anyone had seen her.

The signs ask anyone with dashcam footage or details to call 101.

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