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Nicola Bulley: 5 things forensics expert claims don’t add up about dog walker’s disappearance

From the mobile phone on the bench to the calmness of her dog, this is what the divers ‘can’t get their head around’

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Sunday 19 February 2023 10:26 GMT
Nicola Bulley: Search expert believes ‘third party involved’ if missing mother not in river

A forensic expert leading the underwater search for missing Nicola Bulley has been left “baffled” by “strange” events in the mother’s disappearance.

The 45-year-old disappeared while on her regular dog walk in the quiet village of St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

Dropping her children off at school, she took her spaniel Willow for a stroll by the river and was sighted at around 9am by a witness but despite an extensive search, she has yet to be found.

The mother of two disappeared while on her regular dog walk in the quiet village of St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire (PA)

Peter Faulding, the chief executive of Specialist Group International (SGI) said he “can’t get [his] head around” the fact that the mother of two has not yet been found.

He also warned that a “third party” could be involved, though police have repeatedly stressed they do not suspect foul play.

Here are five things the forensic expert is puzzled by:

Mobile phone left on the bench

According to the forensic expert, the mobile phone left on the bench is “the only thing the police have to go on”.

The phone was discovered on a bench still logged on to a work Microsoft Teams call with the camera and microphone both switched off.

However, Mr Faulding has suggested the phone could have been left there as a decoy by a third party.

Peter Faulding, the CEO of SGI, has raised questions about the case (PA)

“If Nicola is not in that stretch of river today my view is that there could be a third party and that [the phone] was a decoy placed by the river,” he told Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

“The phone on the bench, I mean, you have to ask, normally someone would have a phone in their hand especially if they were walking around,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Behaviour of Nicola’s dog

Police still believe that Ms Bulley fell into the river, although her loved ones have disputed this suggestion due to a lack of evidence.

She was walking her spaniel Willow at the time she vanished but the dog was found “bone dry”, suggesting it had not entered the river either before or after its owner vanished.

Police search teams at the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire (PA Wire)

“We dealt with a drowning a couple of years ago where a gentleman went into a river and Ripley, his dog, was screaming by the riverbank when we got there,” Mr Faudling told GB News.

“When we arrived it was howling, and literally pointing exactly where he was. He stayed with his owner.”

‘No screams were heard’

Mr Faulding also flagged that it “feels odd” that there were no screams heard at the scene, despite police having spoken to a number of witnesses.

There were also no marks left at the scene which could have given clues about what happened.

Doorbell footage from a friend shows Nicola Bulley loading her car outside her home on 27 January, the day she went missing (Emma White)

Scene not closed off to public

A scene of this nature would normally be sealed off to retain any clues that could unravel the disappearance, Mr Faulding said.

However, the area remained open to the public which may have resulted in the loss of key evidence, he claims.

A woman sits on the bench where Nicola Bulley’s belongings were found (PA)

The forensics expert said: “People have been walking past the bench. There’s no police tape up. This would normally be sealed off as a crime scene so potentially crime scene investigators can go in and see if there are any microfibres, evidence, slip marks down the bank etc and I don’t believe that has actually happened here.”

No body found in river - despite extensive search

The downstream and upstream river have been searched thoroughly by police divers on multiple occasions but they still have not found anything, leaving the forensic team “baffled”.

Mr Faulding told BBC Breakfast: “These are very professional divers and they didn’t find anything and that is the odd thing about this. That is what I can’t get my head around. It is very strange.”

The private underwater search company SGI has been using sonar equipment (PA)

“Normally when we deal with drowning victims they go to the bottom and they will stay there for a while,” he said. “The police divers have done a thorough search of that river twice and nothing was found. This is one of the most odd cases I’ve ever worked on.

“If anything is there, we will find it. A body will move after a time, but they searched that area and came up with nothing – that is what is weird here. We are baffled.”

Underwater search experts did not find anything on the first day of searching (PA)

When asked about whether Ms Bulley’s body could be in a different part of the river, Mr Faulding said: “Unless someone’s put her in a different part of the river somewhere or she’s fallen in somewhere.... It is a very short stretch.

“On a normal river we can scan ten miles a day for a body and locate it very quickly.”

He added that there is not enough of a current in the River Wyre, where police believe Ms Bulley may have fallen, for her to have been moved downstream on the day she went missing.

Lancashire Police continue to appeal for witnesses and dashcam footage. Anyone with information or footage is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For any immediate sightings, please call 999.

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