Mystery of mother who vanished during a work conference call

Nicola Bulley, 45, is still missing five days after taking her dog for a walk , reports Thomas Kingsley

Friday 03 February 2023 09:29 GMT
Nicola Bulley: Police 'extremely concerned' for dog walker missing for three days

Walking your dog, going for a coffee, popping out for a run: all normal activities carried out daily with minimal issue.

However, for mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, a walk along the River Wyre has turned into a sizable mystery sparking a missing person investigation after the 45-year-old vanished off Garstang Road in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre, leaving just her Spaniel.

Emergency crews including Lancashire Fire and Rescue, Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team and the North West Underwater Search Team have joined the investigation, while Lancashire Police have spoken to two potential witnesses.

An unknown man aged around 70, white, 6ft tall, well-built, who was walking a small white fluffy dog on a lead, is believed to have been in the area around the time Ms Bulley disappeared.

The second potential witness was spotted on CCTV at 8:48am close to the area where Ms Bulley was last seen. She was also walking a small, white dog and is described as wearing a red and white coat with a fur hood, and a bobble hat. Police said they had traced both witnesses.

Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell, speaking from the family home in Inskip, Lancashire, said he spent all of Sunday searching for the mother-of-two.

The engineer, who has been in a relationship with Ms Bulley for 12 years, said: “It is just perpetual hell. It is just utter disbelief.

“We are living through this but it doesn’t feel real. All we can say is we need to find her. She’s got two little girls that need their mummy home.

Map shows a timeline of Ms Bulley’s movements along the path she walked before disappearing
Map shows a timeline of Ms Bulley’s movements along the path she walked before disappearing (Datawrapper/The Independent)

“We have got to get some good news now.”

Ms Bulley has been missing since the morning of 27 January when she was walking her brown spaniel after 9.15am.

Police have released an appeal describing the mother’s physical appearance: a 5ft3 white woman with light brown shoulder-length hair wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellington boots. Her hair was in a ponytail.

Still, there is no clarity on where Ms Bulley could be.

Just weeks before the mother-of-two disappeared she posted on social media describing the walk along the River Wyre as “spooky”.

She said: “A very foggy cold walk this morning, not a day to forget your gloves! Bit spooky too! Set me up for the day though and Willow had the best time.”

Ms Bulley posted on Facebook about the path just weeks before she vanished
Ms Bulley posted on Facebook about the path just weeks before she vanished (Social media)

Adding more mystery to her disappearance: Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found on a bench and was still connected to a work conference call.

Superintendent Sally Riley told the Mirror police had found Nicola’s phone still active on the bench and began searching for her immediately.

Supt Riley said: “It was on a meeting call, and that was still live it was connected to the conference call and that hadn’t been terminated.”

According to superintendent Riley, there is not yet any evidence of criminal activity or that Nicola has been attacked.

She added: “There are no reports of anything like that but clearly all scenarios are tested and checked for but in the absence of anything to suggest there was anything criminal was there anything to suggest she was attacked, absolutely not.”

Ben Pociecha, the director of Exclusively Mortgages where Ms Bulley works, told The Telegraph that she had logged onto a team meeting at 9.01am on Friday – the day she went missing.

Nicola and her partner Paul Ansell
Nicola and her partner Paul Ansell (Social media)

“It seems as if she was muted and didn’t have her camera on. She was listening in whilst walking her dog,” he said.

“There were numerous parties involved in this. A lot of people attended the call. The police are investigating the call.”

Ch Insp Chris Barton, of Lancashire Police, said: “Firstly, if anybody saw her on Friday morning and has not yet been spoken to by police, or if anybody has any other information about where she might be, please get in touch with us straight away.

“Enquiries are very much ongoing and we have a team of detectives working tirelessly to establish the circumstances around her disappearance, in addition to a large team of police officers, partner agency and volunteer groups on the ground searching the area around where she was last seen.

Specialist search officers drive a boat along the River Wyre
Specialist search officers drive a boat along the River Wyre (PA)

“We are following a number of lines of enquiry and are keeping an open mind at this stage about what has occurred.

“We appreciate there is a great deal of concern in the local area and that people want to help, however we would ask that nobody puts themselves in any danger.

“If anybody has any questions or concerns they are welcome to speak to officers in the area.”

Here is the timeline of Ms Bulley’s disappearance, according to the information known to Lancashire Police:

8.43am: Nicola walked along the path by the River Wyre, having dropped her children off at school

8:50am (approximately): A dog-walker – somebody who knows Nicola – saw her walking around the lower field with her dog. Their two dogs interacted briefly before the witness left the field via the river path

8.53am: She sent an email to her boss

9.01am: She logged into a Teams call

9.10am (approximately): A witness – somebody who knows Nicola – saw her on the upper field walking her dog, Willow. Work is ongoing today to establish exactly what time this was.

9.30am: The Teams call ended but Nicola stayed logged on

9.35am (approximately): Nicola’s mobile phone and Willow were found at a bench by the river by another dog-walker.

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