Video: Police reject suggestions Nicola Bulley could have been a victim of crime
Police have rejected suggestions that missing mother-of-two 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 National Crime Agency had also looked at the investigation by Lancashire Police and had also failed to identify any other suspicious line of inquiry, she said.
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.
The lead and harness for Willow, her springer spaniel dog, was also left on or close to the bench.
Police say it is still a “possibility” she left the area by one path not covered by cameras which is crossed by the main road through the village, and officers are now trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who passed along the road at the time she disappeared, around 9.20am on January 27.
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.
Mr Faulding has said if his team does not find her in the water using his sonar equipment – then he believes she has not been in the river and raised “third party” involvement in the disappearance.
But Ms Riley told reporters at a press conference in the village that Mr Faulding is not included in “all the investigation detail”.
She 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.
“Clearly Mr Faulding isn’t included within all the investigation detail any more than the members of the public are that I’m briefing through these sorts of press conferences.”
Ms Riley described the search for Ms Bulley as “unprecedented”, with a team of 40 detectives investigating 500 different lines of inquiry and police receiving “thousands” of pieces of information.
And while keeping an “open mind” so far, nothing of note had been found to counter their belief Ms Bulley had gone into the water.
The officer asked people, particularly online, not to speculate as to what might have happened as this is “particularly hurtful” to her partner, engineer Paul Ansell, her daughters – aged six and nine – and wider family and friends.
She also warned the public not to break into empty or derelict property along the river by trying to help with the search.
The force 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 say they will also be searching an area upstream, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Earlier, Mr Faulding, after carrying out searches of the river, said: “I’m just telling the family as it is at the moment, and I think they’re totally baffled what’s going on.
“Because I don’t know Nicola’s in here, this is just a theory at the moment, it’s on the bench, the phone was on the bench, the lead’s there, normally she would be found by now, if she was there. And that’s still my view. It’s a difficult one, it’s a very difficult one.
“Once we’ve completed all our searches on this length of the river as thorough as we can do it, so I can rule everything out, then I will be happy that we can return home.”
Heather Gibbons, a family friend of Ms Bulley, said: “The truth is if we look at it factually, no-one knows until we have some evidence.
“I know that the family are massively appreciative of all the police have done.
“As family and friends, the way we are looking at it is, between Peter and his team and the police, we feel we have got the best of the best on that water and hopefully it will be a completion, one way or the other.
“And if they find nothing, then maybe it’s time to start looking down other avenues.”