Nicola Bulley may have left towpath fields without being caught on CCTV, police fear

9 February 2023, 06:58 | Updated: 9 February 2023, 16:12

Nicola Bulley may have left the area without being caught on camera, police fear
Nicola Bulley may have left the area without being caught on camera, police fear. Picture: Alamy/Police handout

By Will Taylor

Missing Nicola Bulley may have left the scene she vanished from by an entrance not covered by CCTV.

Investigators think there is a chance she left the rural towpath area that runs along the river in St Michael's on Wyre at a point not covered by cameras.

They had been confident that Ms Bulley never left the rural stretch of fields after reviewing nearby CCTV.

Lancashire Police is trying to get any dashcam footage from the 700 drivers they have identified as passing along the main road in the village around the time the mother-of-two disappeared.

Officers have been working on the theory she might have fallen in the Wyre while walking a dog as she connected to a Teams call on the morning of January 27.

Divers have scoured the water, but on Wednesday the CEO of Specialist Group International, Peter Faulding, who was promoted as an expert in searches, said he believe she was not in the water after scanning sections with a sonar.

Read more: Fury as tourists 'travel for miles to take selfies' on bench where missing Nicola Bulley's phone was found

Police search the riverbed as they search for Nicola Bulley

Specialist divers searched the Wyre
Specialist divers searched the Wyre. Picture: Alamy

He said: "It's a total mystery for me, I really don't know. In all the searches I've done, this is one which will stick with me.

"Normally we get tasked with, you know, searching for a knife or a body and there's been a witness to a drowning or we've got really good intelligence.

"The sort of information we've got here is a mobile phone on a bench but we don't know anything else.

Read more: Expert diver leading river search for Nicola Bulley dramatically calls it off declaring she's not in the water

"I'm glad really that we haven't found Nicola because I didn't want to recover another dead body.

"It just opens it up, is she alive, is she dead? Did she go in the river or didn't she? And I can't say one way or another.

"I'm baffled by it and I think most people are."

He said he had sat with her partner, Paul Ansell, and their two girls, who had been asking "Where's mummy?"

Paul Ansell spent time with a search specialist
Paul Ansell spent time with a search specialist. Picture: Alamy

Meanwhile, teams from Lancashire Police and the Coastguard are concentrating efforts on the 10 miles of river downstream, where the Wyre travels to the sea.

They are following 500 lines of inquiry after being given thousands of pieces of information.

Superintendent Sally Riley ruled out criminal or third-party involvement on Tuesday and continues to treat the case as a missing person investigation.

Locals have become angered by "tourists" travelling to take photos for social media as Ms Bulley's family wait for news.

Amateur sleuths have also been criticised for turning up despite being able to offer no professional input, and clairvoyants have claimed to know where she is.

Friend Heather Gibbons said: "The truth is if we look at it factually, no-one knows until we have some evidence.

"I think it's incredibly hard, but up to a certain level, we understand it's human nature. It's natural for everyone to have speculation, because the truth is, nothing is making sense."

Despite the turnout for the search being "amazing", she added: "We have noticed it does feel like some people have come to maybe use it as more like a tourist spot, to do their own personal social media things which in some ways we see and understand but it is hard, there's a lot of people around as it is."