'Nicola Bulley could have gone off grid': missing persons expert claims there is 'no indication' vanished mother is in river

18 February 2023, 14:25 | Updated: 18 February 2023, 14:58

There is 'no indication' that Nicola Bulley went into the river, an expert has claimed
There is 'no indication' that Nicola Bulley went into the river, an expert has claimed. Picture: Handout/Getty

By Kit Heren

A missing persons expert has claimed there is 'no indication' that Nicola Bulley fell into the river, the police's main theory, and said she may have gone "off-grid".

Ms Bulley vanished in St Michael's on Wyre in Lancashire on the morning of January 27 as she walked along a riverside towpath.

The police have maintained their main theory that she fell into the river, but her family have cast doubt on this theory, suggesting there is "no evidence" of a fall.

Lancashire Police has come under fire for its handling of Ms Bulley's case after revealing she had been suffering with "significant" alcohol issues in the months before her disappearance, brought on by her "ongoing struggles with the menopause"

But missing persons expert Charlie Hedges said that "nobody goes missing without a reason, and understanding what's going on in someone's life is very, very important.

He said that there is "no indication" that Ms Bulley went into the river, adding that "it may be that she took the decision to go off, but it's not very easy to go off-grid in today's world.

It comes after a dog walker who found Nicola Bulley's phone and dog Willow on the day she went missing said he originally thought the missing mum-of-two had gone to the toilet.

The walker, named Ron, said he thought "this is not right" after finding the phone and dog harness, and eventually spoke to the police about what he found.

Dog walker Ron found Nicola Bulley's phone and her dog Willow
Dog walker Ron found Nicola Bulley's phone and her dog Willow. Picture: Social Media

Ron told Sky: "I'd seen both owners of Willow walking this dog in the past, but while I knew them by face, I didn't know their names."

He continued: "I got to about this red brick building here and I thought 'this is not right'."Then it was just a progression of things happening, you know.

"Because of the wallpaper on the phone we found out who the couple were, and the school was contacted and Paul arrived."

Read More: 'We need a breakthrough': Nicola Bulley's father tells of 'daily struggle' as hunt enters fourth week

Read More: Nicola Bulley's furious friend says cops only revealed menopause struggles 'to deflect attention from lack of progress'

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Lancashire Police said Ms Bulley is being treated as a "high-risk" missing person with "specific vulnerabilities", but refused to elaborate further.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Police has since revealed that she had "suffered with some significant issues with alcohol" before she went missing.

Nicola Bulley has been missing for more than three weeks
Nicola Bulley has been missing for more than three weeks. Picture: Facebook

"Nicola’s family continue to be our absolute focus and our thoughts remain with them," a spokesperson for Lancashire Police said.

The Home Office and Information Commissioner have since spoken to the force, while the Independent Office for Police Conduct has been in touch because Lancashire visited the family on January 10.

Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police's chief commissioner, did not condemn Lancashire Police but said it was "rare" to release such details.

Nick Ferrari speaks to Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Friday: "Any time you're releasing personal information you need to be very, very cautious.

"Is it absolutely necessary for a policing purpose to help achieve the aim of finding a missing woman?

"They've made that call, they've referred themselves to the IOPC, time will tell whether that was the right call in that circumstance.

Read More: Nicola Bulley's furious friend says cops only revealed menopause struggles 'to deflect attention from lack of progress

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

"I don’t know what information they have in front of them investigating the case. So, we're all judging that from outside."Let's focus on finding her and let's see if the IOPC find that Lancashire got it right or got it wrong."

Now, as the search enters its fourth week, her heartbroken father Ernie Bulley told Sky News: "Every day is a struggle," he told Sky.

"[We're] no further on from three weeks ago."[We] just need a breakthrough to give us some hope."

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