Nicola Bulley latest updates as huge search for missing mum enters day 13
Police are continuing to look for missing mum Nicola Bulley today as the huge search enters day 13, after a team of specialist divers called off their operation.
The head of Specialist Group International (SGI), Peter Faulding, on Wednesday afternoon said he is “100 per cent” sure that Nicola Bulley is not in the area of river they have been searching with their specialist equipment.
The mum-of-two hasn’t been seen since January 27. She was last spotted as she took her dog for a walk after dropping her children off at school in St Michael’s on Wyre.
READ MORE: In the village where Nicola Bulley vanished her face is everywhere, her name on everyone’s lips
Police believe she has fallen into the River Wyre but Nicola’s family and friends have questioned the theory saying they are yet to see any evidence that points to this. Lancashire Police has rejected suggestions Nicola could have been a victim of crime, but the force said they are investigating every line of inquiry that comes to them.
Mr Faulding, who was called in by the family to help find Nicola, said on Wednesday: “It’s a total mystery for me, I really don’t know.
“In all the searches I’ve done, this is one which will stick with me. “I’m glad really that we haven’t found Nicola because I didn’t want to recover another dead body.
“It just opens it up, is she alive, is she dead? Did she go in the river or didn’t she? And I can’t say one way or another.
“I’m baffled by it and I think most people are.”
Nicola’s phone was left on the bench near the river, still connected to a work call, with the dog lead and harness found close by.
Follow below for the latest updates.
Focus of search area now shifted
Search teams from Lancashire Police and the Coastguard, including divers, are now focusing on the 10 miles or so of river downstream of the bench, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Superintendent Sally Riley, of Lancashire Police, described the search as “unprecedented”, with 40 detectives following 500 lines of inquiry, with thousands of pieces of information coming in from the public.
And officers were trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who went through the village on the morning Ms Bulley disappeared.
Search expert says case of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley “complete mystery”
An underwater search expert said the case of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley is a “complete mystery”, after his team could not find her.
Peter Faulding, and his team from rescue operation Specialist Group International, had been searching the area around the bench, the “entry point” where it is believed by police Ms Bulley fell into the water.
But he said their three-day involvement ended on Wednesday after a “thorough and extensive search of the areas we were tasked with by Lancashire Police” found “no sign of Nicola”.
On what he thinks happened to her, he told the PA news agency: “It’s a total mystery for me, I really don’t know.
“In all the searches I’ve done, this is one which will stick with me.
“Normally we get tasked with, you know, searching for a knife or a body and there’s been a witness to a drowning or we’ve got really good intelligence.
“The sort of information we’ve got here is a mobile phone on a bench but we don’t know anything else.
“I’m glad really that we haven’t found Nicola because I didn’t want to recover another dead body.
“It just opens it up, is she alive, is she dead?
“Did she go in the river or didn’t she?
“And I can’t say one way or another.
“I’m baffled by it and I think most people are.”
The route that Nicola took before her disappearance
Close friend urges police to search abandoned house
A close friend of Nicola Bulley has urged police to further search an abandoned house close to where the mum-of-two went missing, the Metro reports.
The mum-of-two’s close friend, Tilly Ann, has called for police to search the house and surrounding outbuildings a short distance from the river. Police have previously confirmed they had searched a ‘derelict house’ but it’s not clear which one.
In an updated Facebook post, she 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!).’
Fresh photo of Nicola Bulley shows her celebrating birthday
A fresh picture of missing mum Nicola Bulley has emerged as she celebrated her birthday. The 45-year-old has been missing since she vanished without a trace on January 27.
Police are continuing to search the river in the Lancashire village of St Michael’s on Wyre this morning. The mum now hasn’t been seen for 13 days.
Timeline and day-by-day evidence
Here is a timeline of the key events in the search for Nicola – from the day she was last spotted to where the police’s investigations have led so far.
Day 1: Friday, January 27
Nicola was last seen on Friday, January 27, and police have managed to piece together most of her movements from the morning, including when and where she was last spotted.
At 8.26am, she left home with her two daughters, aged six and nine. She dropped them off at school, where she had a brief conversation with another parent. She then headed to the River Wyre to walk her dog Willow.
At 8.43am, she walked along the river path heading towards a gate in the lower field. She was seen by a dog walker who knew her at around 8.50am, and their pets interacted briefly before they parted ways, according to police.
Read the timeline in full here.
In the village where Nicola Bulley vanished her face is everywhere, her name on everyone’s lips
It is almost two weeks since the mum-of-two disappeared while out walking her dog. Today, MEN reporter Tom George visited the village and found anger, confusion and despair – but also hope.
In the sleepy village where Nicola Bulley vanished without a trace, her smiling face is everywhere.
Missing person posters adorn every railing and lamppost while her name is on everyone’s lips. Yet despite a huge manhunt involving police and specialist search teams, she remains missing.
It is almost two weeks since the mum-of-two disappeared while out walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27.
It’s a mystery that has baffled experts and captured the attention of the nation.
On the morning she disappeared, Nicola drove from her home in the village of Inskip to take her two daughters – aged six and nine – to school.
After dropping them off, she walked her springer spaniel Willow along a path next to the River Wyre. She was seen by a dog walker who knew her and sent an email to her boss.
It is understood she then texted her friend about meeting up later in the week before logging into a work conference call. Minutes later, she was seen by a second witness, the last known sighting.
What happened next remains unclear.
You can read his report in full here.
‘All leads suggest river but Nicola has not been found’ – Peter Faulding confirms specialist search has ended
Diving specialist Peter Faulding, head of SGI, has issued an update confirming his team have no finished their search.
On Twitter, he wrote:
“The SGI underwater search team and I have completed an extensive and thorough search of sections of the River Wyre and I confirm that Nicola has not been found. Although all tangible leads suggest the river, her whereabouts still remain unknown.”
Resident says village has ‘never had anything like this’
Watch: Peter Faulding tells reporters he is ‘baffled’ as search efforts prove ‘negative’
What next as specialist divers wrap up their search?
Peter Faulding is expected to bring his specialist diving team’s search of the river to an end later today, but the police continue their hunt for Nicola.
Mr Faulding, who has been leading a team using specialist equipment to find evidence of Nicola’s whereabouts, told reporters earlier today that his team had one small section of the river to check again before wrapping up their involvement in the case this afternoon. His team began their investigations on Monday.
Search teams from Lancashire Police and the Coastguard, including divers, are now focusing on the 10 miles or so of river downstream of the bench, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Superintendent Sally Riley, of Lancashire Police, described the search as “unprecedented”, with 40 detectives following 500 lines of inquiry, with thousands of pieces of information coming in from the public. Officers are also trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who went through the village on the morning Ms Bulley disappeared.
She said police have ruled out criminal or third-party involvement, but continue to investigate all potential lines of inquiry.
In pictures: Paul Ansell and Peter Faulding visit the spot Nicola is believed to have gone missing from
‘We are 100 percent confident that Nicola is not in that stretch of water’
Speaking to reporters at the river earlier today, Peter Faulding said they are “happy that there is nothing in that water”, referring to the area they have been searching since Monday. He said that does not mean that Nicola did not enter the water at all.
“Along with our searches and the police dive searches along that particular stretch of river from the weir up to the caravan park we are 100 percent confident that Nicola is not in that stretch of water.
“Going down river, we’ve searched an area to a bridge. We could not find anything at all in that stretch of water after many long hours.
“We’re doing this long days, and the police search continues to search the river down to the sea.”
Asked how Paul Ansell, Nicola’s partner who he was seen talking to earlier in the day, was today, Mr Faulding said he’s “clearly upset”. He added: “He was stunned, really. He just wants to know where his partner is. He’s an upset man.”
Asked about their chat at the riverbank, he said:
“The family just wanted to come up and talk to me and see progress and how we’d done and Paul wanted to go up to the bench again to see the area.
“I walked up with Paul and explained to him this is where we’ve searched and I told Paul that we’d cleared from the weir up to about another mile up river, a long way up the river.”
Resident wishes area had been sealed off
One local, who asked not to be named, said they felt ‘under siege’ from people travelling to the area.
“It’s utterly sick,” she said. “It’s great to see the police doing everything they can but the local community wish the police had sealed the whole area off.”
“You feel for the kids and family”
Some people have travelled from far afield to ‘help’ in the search for missing Nicola Bulley.
Karen Booth has come from Sheffield and says she has been ‘looking every day’ for updates. She told us: “You feel for the kids and family. I want to help but you don’t know what to do.”
Specialist divers are ending their search of the river
Mr Faulding has told reporters at the scene that his team will stop their search of the river today.
He says he is 100 per cent confident that she is not in the part of the river they have been searching in recent days using their specialist equipment.
The diving team are a specialist group brought in by the family who have been working alongside the police. The police investigation and searches will continue.
‘I thought she’d have surfaced by now’ – Head of diving team gives update on third day of specialist search
Peter Faulding, the search expert leading the specialist diving team, said the family are “clearly distraught”. He spoke to reporters at the scene on the third day of his team searching the water.
Asked what he believes happened to Nicola, he said:
“Normally a drowning victim goes to the bottom. There was a bit of flow on the river that day, I wasn’t here on the day it happened but normally we recover them within a few metres. My only point there is that the police divers did thoroughly search that stretch of water – a highly competent search in that part of the river.”
“Obviously you’ve got the weir in the way. We’re not always right, we do our best, but if Nicola has managed to get over the weir and she’s gone down that way then I would have thought that she would have surfaced by now and been found by dog walkers. That’s my honest opinion because most bodies are found by members of the public, [for example] where we have suicides they just come up in the river and the public have an unfortunate find. And that’s what I’m surprised about, that Nicola hasn’t been found so far.”
Reporting live from the search
Our reporter is now live from the scene and you can watch his report below or here.
Facebook Live video from the scene coming up shortly
Our reporter at the scene Tom George will shortly being going live on the Manchester Evening News Facebook page, which you can follow here.
Calls for respect as people ‘take selfies with Nicola Bulley bench and posters’
A local parish council chairman has called for respect after it was reported that people had travelled for miles to ‘take selfies’ on the bench where Nicola’s phone was found.
The riverside path where the 46-year-old was last seen walking her Springer spaniel, Willow, has a steady footfall but in recent days, the paths have been rammed with visitors who have travelled to the village to watch the search in action. Visitors have reportedly travelled from as far afield as Lancaster and Manchester.
People have also reportedly been posing for selfies with missing posters that have been put up in St Michael’s on Wyre, as well as with the bench where Nicola’s phone was found. Chairman of St Michael’s Parish Council, Giles Phillips, condemned those taking ghoulish selfies and said ‘it is not a spectator sport’.
Read the full story here.
Paul Ansell spent around 10 minutes at the scene this morning talking to search expert
Earlier this morning, Paul Ansell, Nicola’s partner, spent around 10 minutes on the riverbank near the bench where her phone was found. He was accompanied by a police officer and Emma White, a family friend.
Mr Ansell was spotted having a chat with search expert Peter Faulding, who appeared to be talking him through aspects of his search, now on its third day. Two police dinghies with divers were seen setting off from the riverbank and going upstream to continue the search.
Nicola’s partner visits search teams
Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell has been at the scene this morning speaking to the head of the specialist diving team brought in to assist the search.
Search teams entering the water
Here you can see police search teams entering the river as they continue searching the water.
Lancashire Police has been working with the Coastguard, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and underwater experts SGI to search the river and riverbank using sonar, pole cameras and underwater drones. Police said they will also be searching an area upstream, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
The stretch of river where Nicola was last seen
This is the stretch of river where Nicola is believed to have vanished. Her mobile phone was left on this bench and her dog Willow was found running between here and the gate.
Missing posters line the streets of St Michael’s on Wyre
The scene in St Michael’s on Wyre where missing posters have been put up along the road.
Manchester Evening News reporter live at the scene of Nicola’s disappearance
Reporter Tom George has arrived at St Michael’s on Wyre, in Lancashire, where the search for Nicola continues today.
Police still believe Nicola fell into river
Police are continuing to run with the theory that Nicola Bulley fell into the river but that there is still a “possibility” she left the area by one path not covered by cameras.
During a press conference, Lancashire Police Superintendent Sally Riley said: “Our search has not found Nicola in the river and then a re-search in parts by SGI has found the same. That does not mean… that Nicola has not been in the river.
“In the light of other inquiries being discounted from the investigation so far… clearly our main belief is that Nicola did fall into the river.”
Underwater search expert explains why he doesn’t believe Nicola Bulley is in river
The head of a specialist diver team aiding in the search for Nicola Bulley, Paul Faulding, has explained why he believed she isn’t in the river.
Speaking with TalkTV, he said: “I personally don’t think she’s in the river, that’s just my gut instinct at this point.”
In a separate interview, he said he was “baffled” by the case. He told the Daily Mail: “Police were there on day one diving where the phone was found on the bench.
“Normally, if a person has drowned, they go down within a few metres if being searched for the same day. 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 (Monday) and there is nothing there.”
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.”
Specialist diver chief talks out against claims of ‘ulterior motive’ after speaking to press
Paul Faulding, head of a specialist diver team aiding in the search for Nicola Bulley, has called out against “heartless individuals” criticising his motives after he suggested to the press that ‘something is not quite right’ in the search for missing Nicola. His comments led to speculation from the public that the police’s theory she fell into the river may not be right. The police have since insisted that there is no suggestion of a criminal element in the case.
Speaking to TalkTV, Mr Faulding said:
“I have no ulterior motive. I have given my time to many cases free of charge. We get paid to do police diving operations, okay, but I have offered my services for a whole week with April Jones.
“I don’t need publicity, the press have come to me for this. If I don’t give information then I get slated, so I am damned if I do, I’m damned if I don’t.”
Writing on Twitter, Mr Faulding also remarked:
“My team and I don’t deserve this trash.”
Police ‘will not tolerate’ people breaking into houses to find missing Nicola
Police investigating the disappearance of Nicola Bulley have warned they “will not tolerate” people committing criminal offences by breaking into empty or derelict riverside properties to try to find the missing mother-of-two.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Lancashire Constabulary warned members of the public not to “take the law into their own hands” and not to direct online abuse at people connected to the investigation.
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.”
Ms Riley told reporters: “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 said officers have searched derelict riverside properties with the permission of owners.
“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,” she added.
Friend of Nicola’s urges people to ‘stop the speculation and hurtful comments’
Emma White, a friend of Nicola’s, has asked people online to stop making hurtful comments. She says she also wants the speculation over her friend’s current whereabouts to end so it can be left ‘in police hands’.
She told BBC Radio Lancashire that people are ‘sharing live videos on TikTok’ and ‘wanting to go to a local caravan park and knock on’. She said:
“It’s very, very kind that people want to help but we do have to leave all of this in police hands. There was a guy out there that had gone to a local house. These are local people in our community, you just can’t go and knock on people’s doors.
“Believe me, they have been to the caravan park, they have been to local houses, they are looking, they aren’t just focusing on the river. They are doing everything behind the scenes, to find out what’s going on.
“What we can do, is we can stop the speculation, we can stop the hurtful comments. That’s what would really help.”
In pictures: Specialist divers continue to search the river
Police and specialists continue to search the water today as the search for Nicola enters its twelfth day.
Peter Faulding, leader of underwater search experts Specialist Group International (SGI), has been searching the river for two days after being called in by the family to help.
Police say they will also be searching an area upstream, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Police reject suggestions Nicola could have been victim of crime
At today’s press conference, police rejected suggestions that Nicola Bulley could have been a victim of crime.
Supt Sally Riley, of Lancashire Police, said “every single” potential suspicion or criminal suggestion that had come in, had been looked at by detectives and discounted.
She said: “I would like to reassure the community that nothing in this investigation so far, it has been checked out if it has come in suggesting crime, it has been checked and discounted. So every single potential third party line of inquiry and potential suspicious or criminal element has been looked at and discounted. It does remain our belief that Nicola sadly fell into the river and that this is a missing persons inquiry.”
Police think mortgage adviser Ms Bulley, after dropping her daughters off at school, tragically fell into the water while walking her dog along the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre.
The officer spoke after suggestions Ms Bulley’s phone, still on a work call and left on a bench overlooking the river, could be a “decoy” and questions being raised about gaps in CCTV coverage of the area where she vanished from.
Key points from police press conference
Here are the main key points from the police press conference led by Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Police on Tuesday afternoon:
- A team of 40 detectives are working on approximately 500 different lines of inquiry
More than 700 drivers who travelled through the village of St Michael’s on Wyre around the time the 45-year-old went missing are being traced
Police still believe Ms Bulley fell in the River Wyre
No indications that there is any suspicious element
All lines of inquiry have so far not found anything of note
Full story: Police issue update on Nicola Bulley disappearance confirming they still believe she fell in the river
Police investigating the disappearance of Nicola Bulley say they remain ‘fully open-minded’ as to what happened to her, but still believe she fell in the river. The 45-year-old mum-of-two has not been seen since walking her dog along the River Wyre in Lancashire after dropping her children off at school on January 27.
A huge underwater search of the river is continuing. At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon Supt Sally Riley said their extensive inquiries have ‘so far not found anything of note’.
You can read our full round up from today’s press conference here.
When will river search end?
She is asked when the river search will end. We will stop searching the river when all the national expert advice confirms to us that there is nothing further to be gained by doing that. That does not mean that other inquiries will not continue.
Sup Riley urges people not to break into derelict properties along riverside
Sup Riley is asked to elaborate on her comments about people breaking into property.
She says there are properties along the riverside that are derelict or empty. While people may think it could be a line of inquiry, I would ask them to desist from doing that [breaking into them].
Police have gone into properties along the riverside, she says, we have searched houses matching that profile. Because there is no criminal element yet identified and we don’t expect there to be we’re not expecting to go into houses because that’s not where the inquiry is leading us, she tells the press conference.
‘Every single potential third-party line of inquiry has been looked at and discounted’
We will not be conducting all elements of the investigation in the public eye, Sup Riley tells the conference. But I would like to say every single potential third-party line of inquiry or criminal element has been looked at and discounted.
She reiterates that the NCA has not identified any other line of inquiry that has not already been looked at and that should reassure the public.
Sup Riley asked how confident she is Nicola will be found alive
Sup Riley is asked how confident she is that her team will find Nicola alive.
She says it has been 12 days and clearly a 15km stretch of river is a difficult complex body of water to search. I believe we will find Nicola but nature is a powerful force, which is why we are bringing in a number of experts so that all the best brains and trained people can give us the best chance of finding her.
Questions from the media
She says Nicola’s family are held in their thoughts at an agonising time. She asks everyone to remain constructive and cooperative with the inquiry.
She then turns to questions.
She is asked about reports that someone involved in the river search has suggested there could be third-party involvement. Sup Riley says the search has not found Nicola in the river but that does not mean that Nicola has not been in the river. In light of other inquiries being discounted, clearly our main belief is that she did fall. We would ask that we are allowed time to continue with our inquiry and release to the public only what is relevant at the time.
Sup Riley runs through timeline
Sup Riley also describes her appearance and says she speaks with an Essex accent.
She also describes the clothes she was wearing on the day and says she had her tied in a pony tail and was wearing a pale blue fitbit.
Sup Riley says she also has some further detail on the timeline.
She says at 8.26am Nicola left home with her children and at 8.40am Nicola dropped her children off at school. At 8.43am she was seen on the river path and at 8.47am someone who knows Nicola saw her walking along the lower field.
At 8.53 she sent an email to her boss and at 8.59 she sent a message to her friend.
The last confirmed sighting was at 9.10am on the upper field. Her phone was located on the bench at 9.20am.
I would ask people to dig back into their memory and phone us or contact police via email on a new address – [email protected]
‘Confident that Nicola remained in riverside area’
Sup Riley is now running through the events of the morning of Nicola’s disappearance, which have been outlined by police previously.
She says they are confident that Nicola remained in the riverside area.
Our search of the riverbanks extends out to the sea, she says.
‘All lines of inquiry are being exhausted’
Sup Riley says they are working with specific experts, including the NCA who have not identified any other lines of inquiry other than those already identified by Lancs Police.
I say this to reassure the local community as well as Nicola’s family. All lines of inquiry are being exhausted, she says.
Sup Riley urges public not to speculate
Sup Riley says any indications of physical objects in the river have been identified by divers and discounted. Further sightings of that debris are items we already knew about, she says.
She says people online should not speculate about the circumstances. This is particularly hurtful to her family and children and friends, because it is not helpful to them – it is distressing and it is distracting to the police inquiry.
She says nor is it helpful for people to take it upon themselves to take the matters into their own hands, for example by breaking into empty property. They may mean well and want to help, but they can help in thinking back if they were in the area to what information they may have, she says. We will not tolerate online abuse of anyone including innocent witnesses, family and friends or local businesses, she adds.
‘It remains our belief that Nicola fell in river’
It remains our belief that Nicola fell into the river and that this is a missing person inquiry, she says. Any information that indicates others is being checked all the time. We remain genuinely open, she says.
Some areas being re-searched
The water search continues, she says. She says sonar, cameras and drones are being used.
She says the river is a complex river to search, it is not still water, she says. This makes it complex.
She says particular areas have already been discounted, but we are re-searching them to make sure nothing is being washed back. Thats why some areas are being re-searched.
We have six people searching the banks every day. They are specially trained search officers, she says.
700 vehicle drivers sought to help with investigation
Sup Riley says Nicola’s Fitbit and phone are being examined.
We have identified around 700 vehicles that drove through the village at around 9.10 / 9.15 and we are in the process of speaking to all of those drivers, she says.
We remain grateful to our partners and the wider community, in particular the coast guard, fire and rescue and mountain rescue, she says.
Thousands of pieces of information to work through
The press conference is now underway.
Superintendent Sally Riley says it has been 11 days since Nicola went missing.
She says it remains their priority to find her as soon as possible.
Her family is being supported by special officers, she says.
Thousands of pieces of information from the public and family and friends have been given to police. At the moment there are around 500 active pieces of information we are working through to try and find answers for the family, she says.
Press conference about to begin
Lancashire Police will hold another press conference on the search for missing mum Nicola Bulley this afternoon.
It is due to start in just few moments.