Villagers living near where Nicola Bulley disappeared have condemned TikTok detectives who have been digging up woodland near where the mother-of-two went missing last month.
Conspiracy theories have been rife on social media after Ms Bulley vanished, with vigilantes descending on St Michael’s on Wyre.
Lancashire Police has been forced to urge members of the public not to interfere with the case and senior investigators said social media sleuths have “distracted” the search for the mother-of-two.
Locals have complained of people peering in through windows and some have resorted to hiring private security.
In a video circulating on social media, two men appear to be searching a patch of woodland near the River Wyre, where Ms Bulley disappeared. One proceeds to dig up a patch of ground while the other films.
A local dog walker who gave his name as Jon told MailOnline: “This TikTok stuff is ridiculous. It’s a lot of people playing armchair detectives and speculating about things they don’t know anything about.
“It’s not helping the police at all. These videos just attract more people who haven’t got anything to contribute but just want to be part of it.
“It’s really disrespectful to Nicola’s family to have people who don’t know anything about it making comments and sticking their noses in. There’s even people filming themselves digging in some of the woods nearby. It’s shocking.”
A police spokesman told The Independent: “We’re aware of this incident, we’re looking into it and any criminal acts will be investigated.
“We have made it very clear that online amateur sleuths should not be coming to St Michael’s interfering with the investigation and causing concern to the local community. They are a continuing distraction to the case and our efforts to trace Nicola.”
It comes after a social media influencer was fined after joining the search for Ms Bulley.
Dan Duffy posted a video of himself being arrested by Lancashire Police officers on his YouTube channel, called Exploring with Danny.
The force said the 36-year-old was handed a fixed penalty notice under section 4 of the Public Order Act – fear or provocation of violence.
Since Ms Bulley went missing, Duffy has posted a number of videos on TikTok, as well as three others on his YouTube channel.
In the arrest video, he said: “Hi guys, I’m being arrested on a public order offence. They’ve had an allegation. As you all know I was in search to find the missing woman Nicola but this is what this country’s turning into. No freedom of speech.”
The clip later displays the message: “20 hours in the police station arrested on a public order offence for searching for missing woman Nicola Bulley.”
Ms Bulley vanished after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school on January 27 in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Her phone, connected to a work Teams call, and her dog lead was found on a nearby bench. Searches of the river and surrounding areas have so far yielded no sign of her.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies