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Nicola Bulley police 'draft in top investigator from Britain's FBI' in bid to finally solve case of missing mother
19 February 2023, 09:35 | Updated: 19 February 2023, 09:42
Police searching for missing mother Nicola Bulley have drafted in one of the UK's top investigators from the country's equivalent of the FBI, according to reports.
Lancashire Police have called on the services of a senior detective from the National Crime Agency (NCA), who most recently led a team of investigators in the case of murdered police community support officer Julia James, according to the Sunday Times.
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.
The NCA investigator has now told Lancashire Police to bring in a squad of top experts, including a digital media specialist, forensic clinical psychologists, and a dog behavioural specialist, as they continue their search more than three weeks after she was last seen.
It comes after Lancashire Police were criticised for their 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.
Meanwhile 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.
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."
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’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.
"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, with the search in 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."