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

8 February 2023, 12:46 | Updated: 8 February 2023, 22:09

An expert diver leading the river search for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley has dramatically called it off, declaring she is not in the water, and saying he "did not know" whether she&squot;s still alive.
An expert diver leading the river search for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley has dramatically called it off, declaring she is not in the water, and saying he "did not know" whether she's still alive. Picture: Alamy/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

An expert diver leading the river search for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley has dramatically called it off, declaring she is not in the water, and says he "did not know" whether she's still alive.

Peter Faulding, leader of underwater search experts Specialist Group International (SGI), branded the case 'baffling' and said he 'did not know' whether she was still alive.

The search specialist said he had been "determined" to find Ms Bulley but that he and her partner Paul Ansell, 44, were 'relieved' that he hadn't.

They met at the site of the search this morning in St. Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, where Mr Faulding confirmed that Ms Bulley 'is not here'.

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The SGI team, which is leaving today, will not be helping police to search the River Wyre's "lower estuary".

Lancashire Police told MailOnline their search remains "ongoing" with no deadline in place for it to conclude.

It comes after police last night admitted that Nicola could have left the area with a third party when she vanished during a walk with her springer spaniel Willow at around 9.20am on January 27.

Meanwhile, as the search continues, a friend of the missing mother has called on officers to search an abandoned house and outbuilding close to the river where she's believed to have disappeared.

Nicola Bulley's partner Paul Ansell and friend Emma White (left) meeting with Peter Faulding

In an updated Facebook post, Tilly Ann wrote: 'The abandoned house and outbuildings etc have not yet been searched as it is not currently a crime investigation!!!!!! (This should have been done straight away!).'

The force still maintain that Ms Bulley most likely fell into the river, but superintendent Sally Riley said it remained a "possibility" that she left the area by one path not covered by CCTV cameras.

However, she added that "every single" suspicion or criminal suggestion had so far been discounted.

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, with police working on the theory she fell into the Wyre - despite friends of the family suggesting that is not the case.

This morning, Mr Faulding told LBC that Ms Bulley's disappearance was "baffling" and that he would have expected her body to have been found on the afternoon she was reported missing.

Search expert tells LBC he doesn't think missing mum Nicola Bulley fell into the River Wyre

Police, alongside diver's from Mr Faulding's company, headed out to the river again this morning, where super high-tech sonar camera scoured the riverbed in search of a potential body.

It is believed the camera is able to see through to the bottom of the river and any potential obstacle that would be in its way.

Read more: Police looking at 500 lines of enquiry in Nicola Bulley hunt but still believe she fell into river

There has been no trace of the mother-of-two as search efforts ramp 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, but officers are following some 500 lines of enquiriy.

Nicola Bulley went missing 12 days ago
Nicola Bulley went missing 12 days ago. Picture: Alamy

But her family and friends have claimed there is "no evidence" to support this and Mr Faulding previously suggested police wonder if it could have been used as a "decoy".

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

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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 said 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.

Police search the riverbed as they search for Nicola Bulley

Nicola's partner, Paul Ansell, said earlier in the week: "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.

"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."

Police have hit out at amateur sleuths and online speculation over the case.

Superintendent Sally Riley said: "We will not tolerate online abuse of anyone, including innocent witnesses, members of the family and friends, of local businesses, or of criminal damage or burglary. We will be taking a strong line on that, as you would expect."

Nicola Bulley's partner Paul Ansell visited the riverside this morning
Nicola Bulley's partner Paul Ansell visited the riverside this morning. Picture: LBC

She added: "There are some properties along the riverside which are empty or derelict.

"Whilst it may be well intentioned that people think that that could be a line of inquiry, I would ask them to desist from doing that.

"In some cases it may be criminal if they are breaking in and causing damage or committing a burglary."

She went on: "Because there is no criminal element yet identified, and we don't expect there to be in this inquiry, then we're not starting to go into houses because that's not where the inquiry is leading us,"

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