Dodgy fishermen, abandoned house and shabby red van: Police bust eight conspiracy theories about Nicola Bulley

15 February 2023, 15:21

Nicola Bulley has been missing for nearly three weeks
Nicola Bulley has been missing for nearly three weeks. Picture: Alamy/Social Media
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

There is "no evidence" of third party involvement in the disappearance of mum-of-two Nicola Bulley, Lancashire Police insisted today - despite a number of conspiracy theories suggesting criminal involvement.

Police used a press conference on Wednesday to address eight "persistent myths" about Ms Bulley's disappearance, nearly three weeks after she was first reported missing.

Ms Bulley was last seen walking her dog in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, at around 9.15am on January 27. Police have maintained their hypothesis that she fell into the river near where she was last seen, without criminal involvement.

Read more: Two arrested after 'offensive' Nicola Bulley voicemail sent to councillor amid slew of late-night 'mystery calls'

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said: "I would emphasise that it remains the case there is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third party involvement in Nicola's disappearance.

"However, the officers involved in the investigation are the same experienced specialists and many senior officers who are concerned with the investigation of the most serious and complex crimes."

Here are eight more theories police dispelled during today's press conference:

Dodgy fishermen

The bench where the phone of missing Nicola Bulley was found, on the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre
The bench where the phone of missing Nicola Bulley was found, on the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre. Picture: Getty

One of the most prominent conspiracy theories regarding Ms Bulley's disappearance centres around suspicious fishermen.

Amateur sleuths and TikTok detectives have used their platform to gossip about a pair of fishermen "acting strangely" near where Ms Bulley was last seen.

Read More: Nicola Bulley was 'high-risk' as police reveal 'amateur detectives' have 'significantly distracted' the search

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith said police had not found the fishermen in question and said they had been urged to come forward, but quickly rejected the notion they could be involved criminally.

"There has also been mention of a number of fisherman who were seen that morning who again were described as suspicious," she said.

"I myself don't find it suspicious that fisherman would be in the area of a river that morning or carrying fishing roads. But there was some suggestion one of these men might have been covering their face.

"We have made a number of appeals for these fishermen to come forward."

Abandoned house

An aerial view of  the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre where missing woman Nicola Bulley was last seen
An aerial view of the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre where missing woman Nicola Bulley was last seen. Picture: Getty

There is also a large abandoned house near where Ms Bulley was last seen, which has sparked discussion about third party involvement in her disappearance.

As with the fishermen theory, TikTok sleuths have urged police to search the house for clues over Ms Bulley's disappearance.

But today, Ms Smith confirmed the police have searched the property multiple times and found nothing.

She told reporters: "The derelict house which is across the other side of the river has been searched three times, with the permission of the owner.

"Nicola is not in there."

Shabby red van

People line the streets with placards asking for information on missing Nicola Bulley
People line the streets with placards asking for information on missing Nicola Bulley. Picture: Getty

Another major theory at the centre of Ms Bulley's disappearance centres around a shabby red van, which was seen in St Michael's on Wyre on January 27.

The van has been reported to the police multiple times. Ms Smith confirmed they are looking for the driver, but added that they were not being treated suspiciously.

Read more: 'Stained' glove found in hunt for missing Nicola Bulley yards from where she vanished

She said: "The red van, we're really grateful to members of the public for ringing into the inquiry, we wouldn't have got this far without everyone's help.

"But it's also really obvious that we are being inundated with false information, accusations and rumours which is distracting us from our work."

Lost glove

Nicola Bulley celebrating her 45th birthday
Nicola Bulley celebrating her 45th birthday. Picture: Facebook

A more recent discovery made by police was a glove that was found near where Ms Bulley was last seen. Police confirmed it was in their possession, but added that it does not belong to the missing mum-of-two.

Ms Smith said: "In terms of the glove that has been recovered, you'll no doubt be aware that TikTokers have been playing their own private detectives and have been in the area.

"A glove has been recovered that is not believed to be relevant to the investigation. It is not Nicola's but we have got that in our possession."

Nicola's Teams call

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police holds a press conference at Lancashire Police HQ
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police holds a press conference at Lancashire Police HQ. Picture: Getty

One detail is known for sure - Ms Bulley, who has worked as a mortgage adviser, had been on a work call to her employers at the time of her disappearance.

There had been some confusion over the fact that she had turned off her microphone and camera during the call.

But police said the meeting did not require her contribution and this was not unusual for these types of calls.

Dog harness

Nicola Bulley with her dog Willow
Nicola Bulley with her dog Willow. Picture: Facebook

Ms Bulley's dog Willow was found alongside its harness and Ms Bulley's phone.

Much has been made over Willow's harness being found on the floor, but police said it was normal that she would be let off her lead.

"It was really normal for Willow not to have her harness on in the field," she said.

Mobile phone decoy

Alongside the fact that Ms Bulley's phone was logged onto a work call, the fact that it remained on the bench sparked some theories about it being placed as a decoy.

Diving specialist Peter Faulding joined the search for Ms Bulley, spending three days scouring the river bed last week.

He insisted Ms Bulley is not in the river and said her phone could have been left as a decoy to distract from a kidnapping or voluntary disappearance.

"This is the most baffling case that I have ever worked on. The police have nothing to go on," he said.

"All they have is a mobile phone at the moment and they said it could possibly be a decoy."

Police appeared to debunk this theory today, suggesting it was not an unusual occurrence for Ms Bulley to leave her phone on the side as she walked with Willow.


Still no evidence of criminal activity in disappearance of Nicola Bulley, Lancashire police say.

Lastly, Ms Bulley is known to have been wearing a Fitbit at the time of her disappearance. Mr Faulding also suggesting this could be used to track her, but police said this had not been a help.

Ms Smith said: "No further information can be gained because it wasn't synced."

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