Nicola Bulley latest updates as police search for ‘tatty red van’ seen on day of disappearance
A close friend of the missing mother-of-two, Nicola Bulley, has spoken of the “agony” of waiting for news after holding an emotional vigil at her local village church two weeks after her disappearance.
Ms Bulley, 45, and her family were visiting the medieval St Michael’s Church on the banks of the River Wyre in Lancashire, just a few hundred yards from where she disappeared.
The silent vigil took place in front of a small altar, with candles lit around a photograph of smiling Ms Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell.
Outside, on the road through the village, friends of Mrs. Bulley’s gathered again for another roadside roll call.
They held up placards with her photo, asking them to “take Nikki home” and asking for information.
Heather Gibbons, a family friend who attended the vigil, said: “It’s the center of the community, it’s a place where we used to hang out with Nikki a lot. She was here often with her girls and with Paul.
“So yeah, I’m sitting in there thinking about the times I’ve sat next to her, in church, and I really wish I could go back… just, yeah, I wish she was here.
“That’s it, it’s an agonizing wait, it’s almost hell above hell, because the unknown is unbearable.
“So this morning at 10am we opened the church for people to come and light a candle just to have a chance to come, a space to gather their thoughts, to be together.
“It’s not a vigil where we lost hope, it’s almost trying to create that moment of hope for everyone to support one another.
“We just needed a space to think and pray and collect our thoughts for the family and for Nikki.
“There was a nice little turnout from people who just wanted to come and have that moment.
“The family is on the worst rollercoaster ride of their lives, they still hold onto hope that there is a chance we can get Nikki home safely.
“They have the same thought that nothing makes sense. They’re just desperately looking for evidence that will show exactly what happened.”
Ms Bulley disappeared on January 27 while walking her springer spaniel dog, Willow, along the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre.
She had taken her daughters to school, aged six and nine, and was on her usual path when she disappeared. Her phone – still connected to a call for her job as a mortgage advisor – was found on a bench overlooking the river.
Despite an extensive search of the river and surrounding countryside by Lancashire Police, no trace of her has been found.
The force have ruled out foul play and are treating the incident as a missing person investigation, believing Ms Bulley fell in the water.
However, police say they are still “open” and appealing for information.
Ms Gibbons added: “At the moment it was clear to police what their working hypothesis is, but that is precisely a hypothesis.
“I have spoken to the police along with other friends and family and they have made it clear that all avenues are still open.
“They encourage everyone to keep an open mind, the words were they don’t have their blinders on.
“We’re hopeful, we’re still holding on to hope.”
The focus of the police search on Thursday shifted from St Michael to about 10 miles downstream where the river meets the sea at Morecambe Bay, with police patrol boats and lifeboats sighted on the river and in the bay.