Mystery over Nicola Bulley’s car keys as partner asks Mercedes to track them

Missing mother would ‘definitely’ have been carrying her keys, says neighbour of five years

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 15 February 2023 06:39 GMT
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Forensic search expert ‘convinced’ Nicola Bulley did not fall into river

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Nicola Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell has appealed to Mercedes for help tracking the missing mother-of-two’s car keys, her friend has revealed.

Police have been searching for the 45-year-old mortgage adviser since she disappeared while walking her dog along the River Wyre after dropping her two daughters, aged six and nine, at school on 27 January.

Extensive searches of the river – where police believe Ms Bulley may have fallen in – have so far proven inconclusive, and her disappearance has sparked intense speculation and even vigilante searches.

A missing person appeal poster for Nicola Bulley as police officers walk along a footpath in St Michael's on Wyre
A missing person appeal poster for Nicola Bulley as police officers walk along a footpath in St Michael's on Wyre (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

This week, her neighbour of five years, Charlotte Drake, sought to reject internet theories that Ms Bulley may have left her car keys in the ignition while walking her dog, Willow, telling the Metro that “were definitely on Nikki at the time” of her disappearance.

Now another of her friends has revealed that “one of the first things” that her partner, Mr Ansell, did after realising she was missing was to contact Mercedes to see if the keys could be tracked.

“Paul has been clear about Nikki's keys being missing from the get go,” Heather Gibbons told The Sun.

“In the local searches he specifically asked people to keep their eyes open for them and even organised for people to go out with metal detectors.

“One of the first things he did was to contact Mercedes to see if they could be tracked.”

Police activity near the bench by the River Wyre by the bench where Bulley’s phone was found
Police activity near the bench by the River Wyre by the bench where Bulley’s phone was found (PA)

“The neighbour will be correcting some incorrect speculation that is becoming frequently spoken about. That is all,” said Ms Gibbons, adding: “For those of us that have been out day in day out we don't have the time to be on here correcting every incorrect piece of speculation. It would be more than a full time job.”

Searches of the river by Lancashire Police, the Coastguard and specialist divers using high-tech sonar equipment have so far yielded no sign of the 45-year-old, whose phone was discovered still connected to a Microsoft Teams call on a bench near the riverbank last month, along with her dog’s lead.

Officers were seen on horseback surveying elevated paths in the village of Knott End-on-Sea on Monday, as boats continued to scour Morecambe Bay for a fifth day, where the river empties into the sea.

(PA)

Peter Faulding, the founder of the specialist rescue team which has aided the search, said on Monday night that he was “convinced” that she is not in the river, telling TalkTV: “The river was less than two feet deep on the day. If Nicola had gone down that bank, she would have landed on rocks.

“She would have had to have been pushed from behind extremely hard to launch herself into the deep water and the police divers searched it thoroughly that day, and that’s what convinces me that Nicola is not in the river, I believe that the phone and the harness is a decoy.”

He added: “I’ve had many police phone calls, senior military people I’ve worked with as well in the specialist search area, telling me they can’t believe what’s gone one ... It should have been a general missing person [operation], the surrounding land should have been searched thoroughly straight away and there needs to be a lot more done.”

As police officers were spotted at Wyreside Farm Park Caravan Site this week, close to where Ms Bulley disappeared, it was revealed that ex-Surrey Police officer Mark Williams-Thomas – who exposed Jimmy Saville’s history of abuse – has joined the search.

“I will explore all the options, bring you a factual evidence analysis and dismiss some of the inaccuracies,” Mr Williams-Thomas said.

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