Friend of missing mother Nicola Bulley speaks of ‘agonising wait' for news
A close friend of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley has told of the “agony” of waiting for news, following an emotional vigil at their local village church two weeks after she vanished.
Ms Bulley, 45, and her family would attend medieval St Michael's Church on the banks of the River Wyre in Lancashire, just a couple of hundred yards from where she disappeared.
The silent vigil was held before a small altar, with candles lit around a photo of smiling Ms Bulley and her partner, Paul Ansell.
Outside, lining the road through the village, friends of Ms Bulley again gathered for another roadside appeal.
They held up placards featuring her photograph, in a plea to “bring Nikki home” and appealing for information.
Heather Gibbons, a family friend who attended the church vigil, said: “It's the hub in the community, it's a place where we've frequently been with Nikki. She would often be here with her girls and with Paul.
“So yes, I'm sat in there thinking of the times where I've sat next to her, in the church, and really wishing I could go back … just, yeah, wishing she was here.
“That's exactly what it is, it's an agonising wait, it's almost a hell above hell, because the unknown is unbearable.
“So, this morning at 10 o'clock we just opened the church for people to come and to light a candle, just to have a chance to come, a space to collect their thoughts, to be together.
“It's not a vigil in that we've lost hope, it's almost trying to create that moment of hope for everybody to keep supporting one another.
“We just needed a space to be able to think and pray and collect our thoughts for the family and for Nikki.
“There's been a lovely little turnout of people who just wanted to come and have that moment.
“The family are on the worst rollercoaster of their lives, they are still holding on to hope, that there's a chance we will get Nikki home safe.
“They have the same thinking that nothing is making sense. They are just desperate for some evidence that will pinpoint exactly what has happened.”
Ms Bulley vanished while walking her springer spaniel dog Willow, alongside the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre on January 27.
She had dropped off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school and was on her usual walk 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 a huge search of the river and surrounding countryside by Lancashire Police, no trace of her has been found.
The force has discounted foul play and are treating the incident as a missing person enquiry, believing that Ms Bulley has fallen into the water.
But police say they are still keeping an “open mind” and appealing for information.
Mrs Gibbons added: “At the moment the police have been clear as to what their working hypothesis is, but it is exactly that, it is a hypothesis.
“I have spoken to police along with other friends and family and they have made it clear all avenues are still open.
“They are encouraging everyone to keep open-minded, the words were, they have not got their blinkers on.
“We are hopeful, we're still holding on to hope.”
Focus of the police search on Thursday switched from St Michael's to around 10 miles downstream where the river empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay, with police patrol boats and rescue boats spotted on the river and in the bay.