Private divers scour river for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley

Diving chief Peter Faulding said its team would find Nicola Bulley ‘in minutes’ if she is in the water

Martha McHardy
Monday 06 February 2023 21:37 GMT
Specialist dive company boss looking for missing Nicola Bulley speaks out

A private diving team has begun scouring the River Wyre as the desperate hunt for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley entered its tenth day.

Underwater search experts were called in to help look for the missing mother-of-two who vanished on a dog walk in Lancashire after earlier searches of the water found nothing.

Peter Faulding, head of the private diving team Specialist Group International (SGI), said it could take up to three days to conduct a thorough search of the river where police say she may have fallen in.

The diving group said if she is in the river, they will find her “in minutes” if she has fallen into the water.

“If she’s there, our sonar will pick her up straight away,” said Mr Faulding.

On Monday evening, he said there were “no signs of Nicola” so far, but his team would examine another stretch of river on Tuesday “towards where Nicola went originally missing”.

Faulding explained that if Ms Bulley had fallen into the river while conscious, cold water shock could have taken her breath away, sapping her energy, which means she would eventually drown.

But he said if she was fit and healthy, and a strong swimmer, she would have been dragged down.

A team of six divers has been drafted in to help with the search effort, with Faulding offering to assist free of charge.

Map showing Nicola Bulley’s movement since going missing on 27 January
Map showing Nicola Bulley’s movement since going missing on 27 January (Datawrapper/The Independent)

It comes as Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell released a new statement urging anyone with information to come forward to “help us provide the answers we all so badly need”.

He said: “It’s been 10 days now since Nicola went missing and I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back.

“This has been such a tough time for the girls especially but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends, as well as the wider community and I want to thank them for their love and support.

“We are also really grateful to Peter and his team from SGI for coming up and helping support the work of Lancashire Police as they continue their investigation.”

Friends and family of Ms Bulley are desperately searching for answers after she vanished without a trace along the River Wyre after dropping her two daughters, aged six and nine, off at school on 27 January.

Police search teams on the River Wyre
Police search teams on the River Wyre (PA)

The police are working under the hypothesis that the 45-year-old fell into the river. However, her family and friends say there is “no evidence” of this.

Ms Bulley’s phone was found on a bench on a steep riverbank overlooking the water, still connected to a work conference call at about 9.35am, while her dog Willow was found close by.

The last known sighting of the mortgage adviser was at 9.10am that morning when she was seen by another dog walker, and police believe she went missing in “a 10-minute window”.

Mr Faulding said his team were using high-tech sonar equipment to send images from underwater to a screen on a search boat.

He will first make a “rapid” search of a section of the river downstream from where Ms Bulley went missing.

Despite Ms Bulley’s friends and family questioning the theory that she fell into the river, Mr Faulding said Lancashire Police were “doing the right thing” and his job was to help them search the water.

Nicola Bulley: Private underwater search company inspect river where mother went missing

He said: “The clear evidence is the phone was by the river, the harness, dog harness was by the river.

“So, I think that’s their only clue at the moment and we’ve got to be able to eliminate this river, so we can either confirm or deny what’s in here today.”

Ms Bulley‘s friend Emma White told BBC Breakfast: “Following the hypothesis of the police that Nicola was in the river, we need some evidence to back that up either way, and I feel Peter and his amazing bit of kit is going to come and sweep the river bed and give us answers.”

Mr Faulding added: “If Nicola is in the river, I’m confident that we’ll find her.

“If she’s not in the river, then obviously we won’t find anything but we’re going to work our hardest, we’ll probably be working under darkness tonight for a while, and that’s my intention to help the family.”

It comes after a close friend of the missing 45-year-old shared a plea online in an attempt to dispel misinformation about the case.

Tilly Ann shared 11 pieces of information she feels the public should know about the investigation amid rampant online discussion about the case.

Ms Ann said it was “disgusting” that she has had to issue this statement to curb online sleuths.

Speaking during Home Office questions on Monday, the MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard, said that speculation and people turning up at St Michael’s on Wyre was “hampering” the investigation.

Home Office minister Chris Philp agreed, adding: “It’s important that the public respect the family’s need for privacy at what is obviously an extremely difficult, upsetting and unimaginably distressing time. It’s important they let the police get on with their work, and the local authority as well.

“If anyone has any information at all, however minor or innocuous it may seem to them, please do come forward and share it with the local police, but anything at all could help them get to the bottom of this.”

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