Search and rescue expert 'baffled' by Nicola Bulley's disappearance says 'it's like she's been taken by aliens'

7 February 2023, 09:55 | Updated: 7 February 2023, 11:52

Search and Rescue expert: 'It's like she's been taken by aliens.'

By Will Taylor

A diver brought in to help police search for missing Nicola Bulley has admitted he is "baffled" by her disappearance after searching part of a river and thinks she might not even be there.

Search expert Peter Faulding told LBC he had spoken to Paul, Ms Bulley's boyfriend for around half an hour, to "ask if she had any stalkers or enemies or anything, but he's completely baffled as well."

The search expert said it appeared to be "a totally normal day" for Ms Bulley, adding: "She didn't take much stuff with her, it's like she's been taken by aliens."

Speaking to LBC's reporter Alice Sofield on the banks of the river the search expert said his team had previously focused downstream with the focus pivoting several miles upriver.

Earlier Faulding, who brought his team from Specialist Group International (SGI) to Lancashire to help the operation, said police fear the phone found on a bench where Ms Bulley vanished could be a "decoy".

Police have been working with a theory that she might have slipped while walking her dog on a towpath in St Michael's on Wyre.

"Police were there on day one diving where the phone was found on the bench," Mr Faulding, the CEO of SGI, told the Daily Mail.

"Normally, if a person has drowned, they go down within a few metres if being searched for the same day.

Read more: Nicola Bulley's partner 'extremely distraught' as CCTV images released showing the missing mum before she vanished

Read more: Nicola Bulley latest news: Timeline of events for the the search of missing mother-of-two

"In another couple of days I will be confident she is not in that area at all. We have the best sonar you can buy. We have scanned a huge area today and there is nothing there.

"I am hoping we don't find her at all and she has just done a disappearing act and returns."

He added: "A body will move after a time, but they searched that area and came up with nothing - that is what is weird here. We are baffled."

The partner of Ms Bulley said she "has to be found safe and well" because he "can't put those girls to bed again with no answers", as police released new images of her from the day she vanished.

The location of the bench it is believed that Ms Bulley left her mobile phone on before she vanished on Friday
The location of the bench it is believed that Ms Bulley left her mobile phone on before she vanished on Friday. Picture: Google Maps

Retracing Nicola Bulley's steps

Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire at around 9.10am on the morning of January 27.

Her phone and dog were found at around 9:30am at a bench near the river by another dog-walker.

But Mr Faulding said: "The police have nothing to go on. All they have is a mobile phone at the moment and they said it could possibly be a decoy."

There has been no trace of her with search efforts ramping up as the search continues into its second week.

The police's "main working hypothesis" is that the mother-of-two fell into the River Wyre near to the village of St Michael's on Wyre.

Read more: Relatives of woman murdered with her toddler by Andrew Innes say killer ‘cruelly snuffed out hope and light of family’

Read more: 'Where is she?': Nicola Bulley's children 'desperately want her home' as local community remains 'in shock'

But her family and friends have claimed there is "no evidence" to support this.

Police released new images from Ms Bulley's doorbell camera today showing her on the day she vanished.

Nicola's partner Paul Ansell said: "It’s been ten days now since Nicola went missing and I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back.

"This has been such a tough time for the girls especially but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends, as well as the wider community and I want to thank them for their love and support.

Mr Ansell (R) with Nicola Bulley.
Mr Ansell (R) with Nicola Bulley. Picture: Facebook

"We are also really grateful to Peter and his team from SGI for coming up and helping support the work of Lancashire Police as they continue their investigation.

"If anyone has any information which could help find Nicola, I urge them to get in touch with the police and help us provide the answers we all so badly need.”

In an additional voice note, sent to Sky News, Mr Ansell said: "We have to find her safe and well. I can't put those girls to bed again tonight with no answers."

Lancashire Police said that the force is "doing all it can to find the missing mum-of-two".

"And as part of our continuing efforts, we are again appealing for anyone with dashcam or other footage to submit it to us," it said.

"Our working hypothesis remains that Nicola, 45, sadly fell into the river for some reason, but we remain open minded, and we are continuing to carry out a huge number of enquiries.

Nicola Bulley was last seen with dog Willow on the morning of January 27.
Nicola Bulley was last seen with dog Willow on the morning of January 27. Picture: Lancashire Police

"Our priority throughout this investigation has been on finding Nicola and providing answers for her family. They are being supported by specially trained officers."

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

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

Lancashire Police also confirmed that Nicola Bulley did not leave the field where she was walking Willow via Rowanwater, either through the site itself or via the piece of land at the side.

Officers are now focusing on a river path that leads from the fields back to Garstang Road and are appealing for drivers and cyclists to come forward.

The pictures show the mother-of-two wearing a long dark coat - believed to be black - accompanied by her dog. Her blonde hair is pulled back in a ponytail.
The pictures show the mother-of-two wearing a long dark coat - believed to be black - accompanied by her dog. Her blonde hair is pulled back in a ponytail. Picture: Lancashire Police

Detective Supt Rebecca Smith said: "The team working on this investigation are completely dedicated and determined to find Nicola.

"As a mother myself, I can't even begin to imagine what her two children are going through.

"Please be reassured that our sole focus is Nicola and that we are doing everything we can to find her.

"It is not possible to provide every piece of information to the public because to do so would detract from the investigation, but I'd like to thank everyone who has assisted us so far and for the support provided to Nicola's family at this extremely difficult time.

"They are being supported and updated throughout."

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