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

7 February 2023, 16:17 | Updated: 8 February 2023, 04:24

Police have maintained their belief that Nicola Bulley fell into the river
Police have maintained their belief that Nicola Bulley fell into the river. Picture: Facebook/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Lancashire Police are looking at 500 different lines of enquiry in their search for Nicola Bulley but have re-iterated their belief that the mum-of-two fell into the river near where she was last sighted.

Lancashire Police Superintendent Sally Riley said thousands of pieces of information have been submitted by members of the public as she confirmed a team of 40 detectives were investigating approximately 500 lines of enquiry.

She said: "This is normal in a missing person inquiry and does not indicate that there is any suspicious element to this story.

"The inquiry team remains fully open-minded to any information that may indicate where Nicola is or what happened to her."

Ms Riley also said the police have identified 700 vehicles that drove through the village where Ms Bulley was last seen. She said: "We have now identified around 700 vehicles that drove through the village on that morning on the 27th January at around 9.10am, 9.15am.

"We are in the process of speaking to all of those drivers to try and find out if they have any dashcam footage, what they saw on that day or anything else that may be of value to the police inquiry."

Private search teams have joined the hunt for missing mum Nicola Bulley
Private search teams have joined the hunt for missing mum Nicola Bulley. Picture: Getty

It comes after a diver brought in to help police search for missing Nicola Bulley 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."

Search and Rescue expert: '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

"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.

Nicola Bulley
Nicola Bulley. Picture: Alamy

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.

"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.”

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

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.

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

Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul
Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul. Picture: Facebook

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.

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."