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Nicola Bulley full story: All you need to know about missing mum’s disappearance

Nicola Bulley full story: All you need to know about missing mum’s disappearance. — So many questions remain unanswered about the mysterious disappearance of Nicola Bulley.

The 45-year-old mum-of-two from Lancashire went missing on January 27 and was last seen walking her dog on the fields near the River Wyre.

Her family have spoken about feeling like they’re “stuck in a nightmare,” and Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell has said Nicola’s daughters “miss their mummy terribly.”

As the search continues, with specialist teams of divers looking for evidence in the river and police providing updates on their latest hypothesis, new information is coming out about Nicola’s disappearance every few hours.

Between the evidence released by police, comments from Nicola’s family and friends, and interviews given by the search experts helping the police, there’s a lot to get through. We’ve put together this guide on everything we know about Nicola, her disappearance, the police’s current hypothesis and whether she could have fallen in the river while walking her dog.

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Who is Nicola Bulley?

Nicola Bulley is a mortgage adviser who has lived in Lancashire for 25 years. She lives in Inskip and has two daughters aged six and nine, and a spaniel named Willow. Known as Nikki, Ms Bulley moved to the area from Chelmsford, Essex, and speaks with a southern accent. The family searching for her include her partner Paul Ansell, her mother and father Dot and Ernie, and her sister Louise Cunningham.

She is white, 5ft 3in tall, and has light brown shoulder-length hair – which was tied in a ponytail when she was last seen. She was last seen wearing a long, knee-length black quilted gilet with a hood, with a black waist-length Engelbert Strauss coat underneath which had long sleeves.

Nicola Bulley was also wearing tight black jeans, with green ankle-length wellies and long green walking socks tucked into her jeans. She was wearing a pale blue Fitbit watch.

In a statement on Monday, Nicola’s partner Paul said: “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.”

What does CCTV tell us about the morning Nicola Bulley went missing?

The first sighting of Nicola Bulley on the morning she went missing was via a doorbell camera. The camera saw her open the boot to the family car and letting her dog Willow into the back, LancsLive reports. She then drove 3.8 miles to her children’s school in St Michael’s on Wye.

Police have since confirmed that Nicola Bulley left her home address at 8.26am and dropped her children off at school at 8.40am. She then travelled to the path by the river where she was last seen.

Where was Nicola Bulley before she disappeared and when was she last seen?

We now have quite a good idea of Nicola’s movements up until the window of several minutes in which she went missing. Police released a statement on Friday, February 3 with a timeline of what happened on the morning of Nicola’s disappearance, and Superintendent Sally Riley added to this timeline in a press conference on Tuesday, February 7.

After Nicola dropped her children off at school, she was walking Willow along the path by the River Wyre off Garstang Road near the village of St Michael’s, walking towards the gate and bench on the lower field, at 8.43am. Police said she was seen by a dog-walker who knows her at 8.47am, walking around the lower field next to the river.

heir dogs ‘interacted briefly,’ then the other dog-walker left the field. At 8.53am Nicola sent an email to her boss, and at 8.59am she sent a message to a friend. She logged onto a Teams call at 9.01am, and she stayed logged in past 9.30am when the call ended. But the last time she was seen by another person was at approximately 9.10am, when a witness (somebody who knows her) saw her on the upper field. Lancashire Police believe Nicola went missing in a “10-minute window” shortly after this.

What was found after Nicola Bulley disappeared?

Nicola’s phone was found on a bench at approximately 9.33am, by a witness who didn’t know her. Telephony work by police has confirmed that the phone was located on the bench at 9.20am. The phone’s microphone and camera had been turned off during the call.

Her dog Willow was also found near the bench and was dry, leading investigators to believe that Willow hadn’t been in the water. Willow’s lead and harness were also found – and a friend of Nicola’s has clarified that it was normal for Willow’s harness to be off at this point in the walk.

Since the investigation started, police have received “thousands” of pieces of information from the public and have obtained the Ring doorbell footage from Nicola’s house.

What’s happened in the police search so far and who else has been involved?

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The huge police search so far has included the river and riverbank, and this has extended the whole way out to sea. Specialist search teams, sonar, search dogs, drone and helicopter searches and house to house and enquiries have all been used.

Police have also spoken to witnesses, analysed Nicola’s mobile phone, checked CCTV footage and searched the derelict house across the river and nearby empty caravans. The river was searched on Monday by experts from Specialist Group International who have been using sonar to try and find Nicola, and divers from the Regional Underwater Search Unit have been involved too.

Police also confirmed they were working with experts from the National Crime Agency and the police National Search Advisor, neither of whom have identified any other strategies, physical areas to search, or lines of enquiry that haven’t already been explored. Data from Nicola’s phone and Fitbit have also been examined.

Superintendent Sally Riley confirmed on Tuesday that not all parts of the investigation would be conducted in the public eye, as is normal for these types of case, but that: “Throughout this investigation we remain fully open to any information that is credible and factual, to try and trace Nicola and bring answers for her family.”

She added that all information outside of the police’s main hypothesis is “being checked out all the time and negated as each enquiry comes up.” You can read the key points from this latest press conference here.

Where could Nicola Bulley have been in the moments before she disappeared?

Police confirmed on Monday: “Most of our sightings of Nicola have been by witnesses who knew her and that has enabled us to plot her movements from the school, along the river path and into the field. We can say with confidence that by reviewing CCTV, Nicola has not left the field during the key times via Rowanwater, either through the site itself or via the piece of land at the side.

“Also, we can say that she did not return from the fields along Allotment Lane or via the path at the rear of the Grapes pub onto Garstang Road. Our enquiries now focus on the river path which leads from the fields back to Garstang Road – for that we need drivers and cyclists who travelled that way on the morning of January 27 to make contact. We have already done a lot of work around this, but every piece of footage helps us build up a picture of movements on that morning.”

Police have discounted the Rowanwater caravan site as a potential area that Nicola could be found. After an extensive search of CCTV, police confirmed that the only path not covered by cameras is the one along Garstang Lane leading to the A586, and have appealed for dashcam footage from around 700 drivers who passed the area on the morning, which could help fill in this gap in the evidence.

Do police think Nicola Bulley fell into the River Wyre?

Police say their “working hypothesis” is still that Nicola “sadly fell into the river for some reason,” although a in a statement the force said: “We remain open minded, and we are continuing to carry out a huge number of enquiries.”

Supt Riley said on Tuesday: “Throughout this investigation we remain fully open to any information that is credible and factual, to try and trace Nicola and bring answers for her family. But it does remain our belief that Nicola sadly fell into the river and that this is a missing person inquiry.”

She added that the police have “confidence” that Nicola remained in the riverside area, saying: “I understand that this is frustrating for those observing the investigation when the river has been searched and Nicola has not been found,” but emphasising that this doesn’t mean she wasn’t in the river.

She continued that, because the river was tidal, research had to be done to ensure that nothing was washed out to sea and back in to areas that had already been searched, which was why six specially-trained search officers were searching the river bank every day.

What have her family and friends said about what happened?

As well as saying the girls missed Nicola “desperately” and thanking the community for support, Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell said: “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.”

Speaking to Sky News, Nicola’s sister Louise Cunningham said: “If I’m being honest, it feels like I’m just stuck in a nightmare. We’re going round and round in circles trying to piece together what could have possibly happened. It’s like she’s just vanished into thin air. We just want her home, we need her home, her children need her home. It’s absolutely heart-breaking.

Ms Cunningham also said in a Facebook post that people should “keep an open mind” as there was “no evidence whatsoever” that Nicola fell in the river.

Nicola Bulley ‘s friend Emma White dismissed theories that Nicola would have been trying to rescue Willow’s tennis ball from the river, telling Sky News: “Willow loved using a tennis ball very much, but it used to disturb their walk so they haven’t had a tennis ball since last year.”

Ms White also responded to the police hypothesis that Nicola was in the river, saying it was based on “limited information” and that “You can’t base life on a hypothesis.” Nicola’s friend Tilly Ann also wrote a list of 11 things she said everyone should know following online speculation about Nicola’s disappearance.

Tilly said she had permission from Nicola’s family before posting. The list included clarification that: “Paul and Nikki both mostly work from home which is why he was at home that day. They have CCTV and there is a reason why Paul has never been a suspect. Family and friends need these accusations to stop immediately. The fact that I’ve had to write this is disgusting to be honest.”

Tilly also clarified that Willow wouldn’t have had a harness for that part of the walk, explained why Nicola wouldn’t have a tennis ball with her, and confirmed that the dog was dry when found.

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Why has a diving expert’s opinion changed things – and could a ‘third party’ be involved?

Peter Faulding, the CEO of private underwater search and recovery company Specialist Group International, has been assisting the police in their search – and has made some comments which have fuelled the speculation around Nicola’s disappearance.

Aiding the police investigation, Mr Faulding’s company has been using sonar technology to search around three miles away from the weir and is doing a “really careful survey” in what he calls the “hot zone,” where Nicola went missing.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning, he said the area upstream from the Wyre was non-tidal, and included the area where the phone was found on the bench. He noted that the “odd thing” that he couldn’t get his head around was that the divers didn’t find anything in that area.

Although Lancashire Police has repeatedly said there is no sign of third party involvement, Mr Faulding told Good Morning Britain: “I personally think, if I rule this stretch of river out today where we are working, I don’t think she is here and there is probably a third party involved.”

He added that he had a theory that the phone could’ve been a “decoy” placed by the river, and asked Nicola’s partner Paul if she had any “stalkers or enemies or anything like that,” but said “he’s completely baffled as well.”

Mr Faulding said: “[The phone] could have been placed as a decoy there is not enough CCTV to cover particular areas here. The police are working hard in the background to cover everything. The phone on the bench, I mean, you have to ask, normally someone would have a phone in their hand especially if they were walking around.”

Responding in the press conference to the claims made by Mr Faulding, Supt Riley said: “I thank SGI for the help that they’ve given to the team. As I said before, the search has not found Nicola in the river and research in parts by SGI found the same.”

She continued: “Clearly Mr Faulding isn’t included within all of the investigation detail, any more than members of the public are, that I’m briefing through these sorts of press conferences. We would ask that we be allowed time to continue with those enquiries and to release to the public only what is relevant for them at that time.”

How confident are police that they will find Nicola alive?

A journalist at the press conference on Tuesday asked Supt Riley how confident she was that police would find Nicola alive. She replied: “It is 12 days since Nicola’s been missing and clearly a 15km stretch of the river is a complex, difficult and moving body of water to search

“I do believe that we will find Nicola but nature is a powerful force [and] changes our parameters constantly which is why we’re bringing in a number of experts that we have, so that all the best brains and trained people in the country can give us the absolute best chance of finding Nicola.”

What evidence are police looking for and what can people do to help?

Police are looking for dashcam footage from anyone who passed the area not covered by CCTV, and are in the process of writing to the drivers they’ve identified.

They’re also asking for any other evidence that will help in their investigation. There is now a specific email for people to send in information:

Supt Riley also warned people not to speculate on social media. She said: “We would ask that people in the wider community, particularly on social media and online, do not speculate as to what may have happened to Nicola. This is particularly hurtful to her children, to her family, to her children, to her partner Paul, her parents, her sister and her friends. It’s not helpful to them, it’s distressing, and it’s distracting to the police enquiry.”

She also told people not to “take the law into their own hands,” for example by trying to break into empty property. She said: “They may mean well, they may want to help, but they can help by thinking back if they were in the area to what information they may have of relevance to the police, and holding the family in their thoughts.

She added that police would “not tolerate online abuse of anyone,” including innocent witnesses, members of the family and Nicola’s friends, or local businesses, saying police would “be taking a strong line on that.”

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Simon Kabutey
Simon Kabutey
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