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'I seem to be the fall guy': Nicola Bulley diver defends search efforts and says he didn’t give family ‘false hope’
20 February 2023, 05:51 | Updated: 20 February 2023, 11:42
A diving specialist who searched for Nicola Bulley has defended his efforts in the search operation for the missing mother-of-two, saying he is being made out to be the 'fall guy' after a body was found.
Peter Faulding, who joined the police search for three days as a volunteer, denied giving her family 'false hope' after insisting multiple times during his search that she was not in the river.
He told LBC: "I seem to be the fall guy for this in everyone’s eyes.
Asked what went wrong, he said: “Nothing went wrong.
“When we scanned the river, the police.. and the police dive teams using sonar, dogs and foot soldiers, have been walking this route for the last three weeks, up and down that river, Nicola was still not found.
“A body apparently was found in the reeds. When we scanned the river, there was no sign of Nicola laying on the river bed. That was our remit.
“We did not search the reeds.
“When we scan the river the dried reeds are up on the side of the river. The sonar will not see through reeds, it will only see under the water, under the boat, and out to the river bank.”
"The police did not give me the information that I required on the day to know that she was vulnerable. All we were told was that she potentially had slipped down the bank into the river.
"The river bank, at the bottom of the river - that is why I was so adamant - was only two foot of water at the bottom.
"She would not have drowned if she went down there and she would not have gone over the weir. I believe she's walked off."
Peter Faulding defends SGI team and the police in their search for Nicola Bulley
Mr Faulding previously told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "I don’t think she fell in the water. That's just my opinion with all the drownings I've dealt with over the years."
But he said it is "totally unfair" to suggest that his comments had given Ms Bulley's family false hope after a body was found less than a mile from where the mum-of-two went missing on January 27 near the River Wyre.
He said: "If I gave them false hope, then what about the police search teams there every day? I was there for three days as a volunteer.
"I think that would be totally unfair to be honest with you, and I would sling the hook and give up searching."
He added: "The police search teams walked that river every day. Up and down, up and down.
"When we searched that part, she was not laying on the bottom of the river, but we were only there for one day.
"We are going down with a boat towing the sonar. We're not searching reeds."
Former police officer 'appalled' by Lancashire Police's mishandling of Nicola Bulley investigation
Police announced the discovery of a body near the river near where Ms Bulley disappeared on Sunday morning, over three weeks after she vanished.
Officers did not confirm that it was definitely Ms Bulley and said that they were working to identify the body.
Lancashire Police made the discovery in the River Wyre about a mile away from where Ms Bulley went missing on January 27.
Police said in a statement on Sunday: "This morning, Sunday, 19 February, you may be aware of police activity around the river near to St Michaels. We want to provide you with an update on that activity.
"No formal identification has yet been carried out, so we are unable to say whether this is Nicola Bulley at this time.
"Procedures to identify the body are on-going. We are currently treating the death as unexplained.
"Nicola’s family have been informed of developments and our thoughts are with them at this most difficult of times. We ask that their privacy is respected.
Following the discovery, Ms Bulley's partner Paul Ansell said in a message sent to a Sky News journalist on Sunday evening: "No words right now, just agony."
Mr Faulding, who offered the services of his search team for free, made headlines when he contradicted Lancashire Police's theory that Ms Bulley had fallen into the river.
He previously told LBC: "I don’t think she fell in the water. That's just my opinion with all the drownings I've dealt with over the years.
"They normally go down and the police dive team are brilliant, they know what they're doing, professional, they would have found her, as we would've done.
"We locate people quickly. That's what I'm shocked with, that she's disappeared."
Lancashire Police have maintained that their main working theory is that she had fallen into the river near where she went missing on January 27.
But her family and friends were sceptical of the hypothesis, due to a "lack of evidence".
Ms Bulley's friend, Emma White, said that the "police hypothesis is on limited information".
"When we are talking about a life we can't base it on a hypothesis - surely we need this factual evidence," she said.
"That's what the family and all of us are holding on to - that we are sadly no further on than last Friday.
"We still have no evidence, and that's why we're out together in force."
Ms White added to Sky: "You don't base life on a hypothesis."