Missing mother Nicola Bulley was captured on CCTV the day she went missing – as a forensic expert claims she did not fall into the river and a friend shares 11 key details about her disappearance.
Still pictures from cameras at her home, showing Ms Bulley on her driveway just hours before she vanished, have been released by a friend as part of the desperate search to find her.
The mother, 45, can be seen in a long jacket, leggings and walking boots with her hair tied in a pony tail prior to taking her two daughters to school on January 27.
It comes as Peter Faulding, a world-renowned forensics expert who is a diver for the police and has worked on hundreds of cases across the southeast, today said he believes it is unlikely that the river bank is the correct answer.
She is seen on security footage wearing a long dark coat, leggings and ankle boots with her hair tied in a ponytail
Still pictures showing Ms Bulley just hours before she vanished have been released by a friend in a bid to find her.
He claims that the missing dog walker, who disappeared on January 27, is ‘not in the river at all’, and investigators should have found evidence by now if she were.
The 11 key details written by Nicola Bulley’s friend:
- Paul and Nikki both mostly work from home which is why he was at home that day. They have CCTV and there is a reason why Paul has never been a suspect. Family and friends need these accusations to stop immediately. The fact that I’ve had to write this is disgusting to be honest
- They both do this walk regularly and Paul is very well known in the community and very well recognised
- The dog never has her harness on for a chunk of that walk, it’s removed at the gate of the top field and then put back on at the gate when they leave
- They very rarely take the ball out for walks with willow now because she is very very protective over the ball and haven’t done for a while
- Nikki quite often would put her phone on loud speaker when talking
- The dog was found very close to the bench and the harness. The harness was found on the floor not on the bench
- Nikki is an incredibly strong swimmer
- Nikki drove to the school and then left her car there and walked to the river
- The dog was dry when found
- The dog has since been back
- There’s CCTV at the back of the caravan park. The only camera that isn’t working is the one that would have seen everything
The forensics expert Mr Faulding told GBNews: ‘The amount of searching that’s gone on in this river, I would have thought she would have been found by now. Normally when a person drowns, if they are left a number of days they don’t move very far.
‘This is not a fast tidal river. So I would have expected her to be found by the police divers by now… It’s as clear as that. And you know, none of this rings right to me. My belief is she’s not in not in the river at all.’
Mr Faulding said that not enough factors added up in his opinion, suggesting that Ms Bulley’s phone could have been left on the bench as a ‘decoy’.
He continued: ‘I personally think this phone could be a decoy.
‘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.
‘When we arrived it was howling, and literally pointing exactly where he was. He stayed with his owner.
‘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.’
The forensics worker said it ‘feels odd’ that no one spoke of the fact that Ms Bulley was not wearing clothes that would have absorbed water quickly, there were no marks at the scene and that not one person heard screams.
Additionally, he criticised the fact that the location has not remained cordoned off.
He 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.’
It came as a friend of missing mother Nicola Bulley shared 11 key details about her disappearance – as police scour river after admitting they found ‘no evidence’ she slipped or fell into it.
Tilly Ann, a close friend of Nicola Bulley who has been missing since January 27, shared key details in a Facebook post following the 45-year-old’s disappearance.
World-renowned forensics expert, Peter Faulding, does not agree with police claims that Nicola Bulley, 45, fell into the River Wyre
Police investigating the mysterious disappearance of mother Nicola Bulley have not found any evidence that she slipped or fell into the river but will continue their search
Nicola Bulley, 45, was last seen a over a week ago walking next to the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire
The family friend thanked those who had shared their support along with the list of details surrounding Nicola’s disappearance
Police search teams were pictured in boats on the River looking for the missing 45-year-old
Essential information from the post read that unfortunately the only CCTV camera at a residential caravan park ‘that would have seen Nikki’ is not working.
She added that her friend and her partner Paul take the walk along the river regularly and would be well-recognised by the local community.
Tilly Anne noted that Ms Bulley is ‘an incredibly strong swimmer’, and that her dog Willow who she was walking was completely dry when found.
She wrote that the dog would never have a harness on during the familiar walk and is removed at a gate at the top of the field. When the dog was found, it was very close to the bench along with the harness on the floor.
She added that her friend would often put her phone on loud-speaker when talking – her phone was discovered close to the river bank and she had previously been on a conference call before she vanished.
The family friend thanked those who had shared their support and contributed to the search for Nicola – saying it had ‘created such a comfort to Nikki’s family’.
Tilly Anne noted that Ms Bulley is ‘an incredibly strong swimmer’, and that her dog Willow who she was walking was completely dry when found
Following an urgent appeal for a mother wearing a yellow rain jacket in their ongoing search for missing mother Nicola Bulley, the force wrote that it was ‘pleased to say that the woman came forward very quickly’
Detailing the impact on Paul she wrote that he is struggling to hold back his pain, but is focusing on his children and does not want to worry them ‘more than they already are’.
How dog behaviour can disclose hidden clues to mysteries
Dogs are believed to be able to find the last location of their owners through their sense of smell.
Experts advise those searching should go back to where the dog was last spotted because it will backtrack to its owner and their scent.
A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 times more powerful than a human and can pick up locational scent.
If it’s home is far away and the dog can’t find its owner, it will get worried and try to return home to somewhere familiar.
In certain cases, some dogs will return home along or attempt to follow their missing owner, according to Colin Tennant, director of the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training, who wrote in The Sunday Times today.
Dogs cannot, however, process what is happening if a human falls into water. In this case, the dog might run along the bank looking for eye-contact or stop on the bank as the last place of detection.
On Saturday, police released an image of a potential witness who was spotted in the area at the time of Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Later that evening, they released a statement that said the force ‘pleased to say that the woman came forward very quickly’ and were treating her as a ‘key witness’ in the investigation.
The Facebook post by Lancashire Police added: ‘Our enquiries to find Nicola are extensive and will include speaking to as many members of the public as possible.’
Photographs of police scouring the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire where the mother was last seen have been released as they continue to search.
The police insist that it is their primary theory despite not having found any evidence that she slipped or fell into the river.
Following their first lead of the new witness, they are continuing the investigation as the search on the Wyre River enters its 10th day.
The second new line of inquiry relates to a Fitbit Ms Bulley was wearing on the morning she vanished. Police hope to use technology to help track her whereabouts via the smart watch.
Fitbits are also capable of monitoring a heart rate and could provide vital clues relating to Ms Bulley’s last known movements before she vanished.
Specialist crews will return to the river today to continue scouring the area for clues.
And while maintaining it is still the ‘lead theory’ that Ms Bulley somehow came to be in the water, police have now revealed there is no evidence which backs this up – a sentiment which has been repeatedly echoed by the missing mother’s family.
Pictured: A police helicopter over St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, as police continue their search
Specialist crews will return to the river today to continue scouring the area for clues
Essential information from the post read that unfortunately the only CCTV camera at a residential caravan park ‘that would have seen Nikki’ is not working
Specialist crews returned to the river today to continue scouring the area for clues
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Lancashire Police Superintendent Sally Riley said there is ‘no evidence of a slip or fall’ in the area at the centre of the investigation.
‘I think if it had been a sloping bank, a commonsense view would be that you would expect to find scuff marks.
‘If it is sheer and you lose your footing, you might not have any marks left on the grass. All of that has been subjected to a detailed search.’
Supt Riley said on the balance of probabilities, it is ‘highly unlikely’ criminal activity took place in such a tiny window of time which is currently unaccounted for.
Police are still trying to piece together about 10 minutes from the morning Ms Bulley disappeared.
Father-of-two Paul Ansell, 44, said Ms Bulley’s disappearance feels ‘no more real now’ than it did when he first learned she was missing
She said: ‘This is a low-crime area. It’s genuinely a safe, tight-knit area, people look out for each other. A third-party [being] involved that we haven’t yet had sightings of, we haven’t caught on CCTV or dash-cam or all the other things I’ve mentioned, is just not likely.’
This does not mean they’ve entirely ruled out other scenarios.
Officers are still desperately appealing for witnesses to come forward, particularly near a CCTV black spot near Garstang Lane.
And Ms Bulley’s distraught partner has not given up hope of finding her alive, stating he ‘will not entertain any other outcome’ as the search continues.
Father-of-two Paul Ansell, 44, said Ms Bulley’s disappearance feels ‘no more real now’ than it did when he first learned she was missing.
‘The agony continues… the hope is stronger than ever of finding you. We need her home… we need a happy ending to this nightmare,’ he said.
Mr Ansell also doubled down on comments from Ms Bulley’s friends and other relatives warning police have very little basis for their theory that she fell in the river.
He said there was ‘no evidence yet to suggest any scenario over another and all options must be kept wide open’.
Mr Ansell also doubled down on comments from Ms Bulley’s friends and other relatives warning police have very little basis for their theory that she fell in the river
Underwater forensics expert Peter Faulding told the Mail police may have missed ‘critical’ evidence because they failed to seal off the area where Ms Bulley vanished.
Mr Faulding, who has worked on many high-profile criminal cases, said officers were too quick to decide there were no suspicious circumstances and described their investigation as ‘a mess’.
‘It should have been sealed off immediately as a potential crime scene. That area is critical. Critical forensics could have been found in that location,’ he said.
‘Now we’ve had loads of people trampling around, covering up any tracks.
‘I don’t know how the police can say there’s no evidence of third-party involvement in this disappearance when they haven’t actually checked. I think this is a mess, really.’
Mr Faulding also offered his expertise to the investigation, saying he would be ready to offer assistance from Monday if police require him.
‘The sonar used by the police is pretty low-tech. It’s very unlikely they would be able to find a body with it,’ he said. ‘The divers the police are using are very experienced and professional, but searching that way is a very slow process.
‘They are having to swim along in a line, feeling for a body among the weeds, inching down the river bit by bit. They can probably only cover about 100 metres of the river on a good day. Even then, there’s an element of luck – divers can miss things in murky water.
‘With our kit, I can search about 10 miles of river in a day. If the police say the word, I will fly it up there by helicopter on Monday and get to work.’
Police said: ‘We would urge people to remember that we are investigating the disappearance of Nicola, and the priority is Nicola and her family. We want to find her and provide answers to her family’
Divers will continue looking for the missing mother throughout Saturday
Police previously appealed for witnesses, sharing a grainy image of a woman wearing a yellow rain jacket and pushing a pram with a young child.
Officers from Lancashire Constabulary described the woman in the photo as a ‘key witness’ and believe she was in the same area as Ms Bulley on Friday January 27, the morning she vanished from the River Wyre while walking her dog.
Within minutes of the initial appeal being made public, a relative confirmed the woman was ‘on the phone’ to police.
She said the woman in yellow had not seen anything that could assist police in the investigation.
Lancashire Police said: ‘We must stress that she was very much being treated as a witness and was one of many people in St Michael’s on Friday, January 27th.
‘Our enquiries to find Nicola are extensive and will include speaking to as many members of the public as possible.’
Amid reports of a widening difference of opinion between Ms Bulley’s family and detectives, Mr Ansell echoed police’s pleas for potential witnesses who might have dashcam footage to come forward.
Police are particularly interested in speaking with people who may have been travelling near Blackpool Lane and Garstang Lane between 9am and 10am on the day Ms Bulley vanished.
Members of the public joined the widespread search for the 45-year-old over the weekend
‘Whilst you may not think that you hold any relevant information, it is really important that we gather as much footage as possible from the area that morning so we can review every piece meticulously to establish whether Nicola can be seen,’ police said.
‘We know from the footage we are currently reviewing, that this is a busy road, particularly at that time in the morning.
‘There will be many people who were in that area at the time who may not think they can help, however we would urge you not to make that decision yourself and to come forward so we can have as much material as possible to assist the investigation.’
The appeal for footage from Garstang Lane comes after police said that while their lead theory is that the missing mother fell into the river, they’re still exploring other possibilities.
Substantial CCTV in the region has all but ruled out she exited the park from most of the surrounding gates, but the path leading to Garstang Lane toward the A5/A6 has thus far proven to be a camera black spot.
Lancashire Police Superintendent Sally Riley told the Lancashire Post: ‘Several exits of the riverside area have CCTV covering them or exits are locked and therefore couldn’t have been passed through by Nicola.
‘There’s only a very small area onto Garstang Lane toward the A5/A6 which is not covered by CCTV and that’s why we’re appealing today for dashcam footage or for people who may have been walking on Garstang Lane or driving in the area to come forward if they can.’
The owners of a caravan park close to the riverbank where Ms Bulley is believed to have fallen into the water have already had their CCTV tapes seized by police.
Nicola Bulley’s sister (pictured together) warned there is ‘no evidence whatsoever’ that suggests the missing mother fell in the river, despite police confirming it’s their lead theory
A police helicopter was seen over St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire on Saturday
The most recent appeal for the woman in yellow had offered renewed hope for family and friends.
They know all it takes it one sliver of information to break open a case like this.
Police earlier said: ‘A woman was seen walking on Garstang Road/Blackpool Road, St Michael’s on the morning of Friday 27th January pushing a pram.’
The woman in question was walking from the direction of Allotment Lane towards the Grapes public house at approximately 8.22am, police say. She was seen again walking on Allotment Lane towards Garstang Road at 8.41am.
Hours later, police confirmed they had spoken with the woman, and removed the initial appeal.
A spokesperson for the force said they’re looking to speak to as many witnesses as possible as the search continues, before again pleading with the public to avoid speculation.
‘The speculation and abuse on social media aimed at some people who are merely assisting our enquiry, is totally unacceptable,’ a spokesperson said.
This is the latest of several public appeals police have made since Ms Bulley vanished. Earlier, a woman in a bright red coat was identified following a similar callout. She told police she had nothing of value to report from the morning in question.
Police expressed concerns the missing mother-of-two may have fallen in the icy cold water on River Wyre while trying to retrieve her dog Willow’s tennis ball. Specialist search crews have not recovered the ball – or anything of note – at this stage.
If Ms Bulley did fall into the water, she may have been weighed down by the heavy clothing she was wearing on the day she vanished.
But her sister Louise Cunningham urged the public to keep an open mind in a social media post last night.
Officers were seen in lines walking close to the river bank on both sides on Saturday morning
Officers have been seen walking the tow path next to the river, a route Ms Bulley often took after dropping her daughters off at school
Paul Ansell issued a public appeal through the media in the week, vowing not to give up hope
‘Off the back of the latest police media update, please can I add there is no evidence whatsoever that she has gone into the river, it’s just a theory,’ she said.
‘Everyone needs to keep an open mind as not all CCTV and leads have been investigated fully, the police confirmed the case is far from over.’
Anyone with information or footage is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For immediate sightings, please call 999.
Police are said to be looking into how to access data from Ms Bulley’s Fitbit in a bid to track her movements, her friend revealed today.
Friend Emma White said on Saturday that the Fitbit had not been synced to a device since Tuesday.
Speaking close to the spot where Ms Bulley was last seen, Ms White said: ‘The police are trying to use the data from her Fitbit to find her. The watch can receive data, but cannot connect to the internet.
‘However, we hope they can somehow locate it using Bluetooth signals from people’s phones. We are clinging to hope. Nicola falling into the river is just a hypothesis.’
She added the Fitbit has not ‘synced’ with its servers since the Tuesday before Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Police are said to be trying to trace data from Nicola Bulley’s Fitbit (pictured on her right arm)
Nicola, 45, disappeared shortly after dropping her two daughters off at school on January 27
There are ways to access a Fitbit’s data using the app on the owner’s phone or third-party tracking apps, which can allow any smartphone to sync with the device if it is within a 100ft radius.
But this only lasts for as long as the Fitbit still has battery left.
Search teams from Lancashire Constabulary are continuing to trawl the River Wyre, along with specialist crews from around the country.
Friends of the family said on Friday that Ms Bulley’s daughters had been asking: ‘Where’s Mummy? How is Mummy?’
Their father is trying to put on a brave face for the sake of the children, and is being supported by Ms Bulley’s distraught parents and sister.
The missing mortgage adviser, 45, sent a text to a friend organising a playdate for their children minutes before she vanished, it emerged yesterday.
A resident of St Michael’s on Wyre said: ‘She booked a playdate, 8.57am, she sent a text message to a friend whose mortgage she had just recently signed off on to arrange for the girls to go for tea this week.’
The local, who did not want to be named, said this was more evidence that she had no intention of voluntarily disappearing, adding: ‘You wouldn’t have done that if you were going to get up and go missing.’
Anyone with information or footage is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For immediate sightings, call 999
Police officers search near the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, today
Nicola Bulley’s disappearance: A timeline
– January 27
The 45-year-old dropped her daughters – aged six and nine – off at school in the morning before walking her dog, Willow, in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Lancashire Police have said the mortgage adviser, from nearby Inskip, had been walking along a path beside the River Wyre just before 9am.
She was seen by a dog walker who knew her at around 8.50am, and their pets interacted briefly before they parted ways, according to the force.
At 8.53am, Ms Bulley sent an email to her boss, before logging on to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am. She was seen by a second witness at 9.10am – the last known sighting.
By 9.30am, Ms Bulley’s Teams call had ended, but her phone stayed connected to the call. Approximately five minutes later, another dog walker found her phone on a bench beside the river, with Willow darting between the two.
At 10.50am, Ms Bulley’s family and the school attended by her children were told about her disappearance.
Lancashire Constabulary launched an investigation into Ms Bulley’s whereabouts on the same day and appealed for witnesses to contact them.
– January 28
Lancashire Constabulary deployed drones, helicopters and police search dogs as part of the major missing person operation.
They were assisted by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team and the North West Underwater Search Team.
– January 29
Local residents held a meeting at the village hall to organise a search for Ms Bulley at 10.30am on Sunday, according to reports from The Mirror, and around 100 people joined the search.
Police urged volunteers to exercise caution, describing the river and its banks as ‘extremely dangerous’ and saying that activity in these areas presented ‘a genuine risk to the public’.
– January 30
Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Constabulary said police were ‘keeping a really open mind about what could have happened’, and that they were not treating Ms Bulley’s disappearance as suspicious.
– January 31
Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a potential witness – a man who had been walking a small white fluffy dog near the River Wyre at the time of Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Her family released a statement saying they had been ‘overwhelmed by the support’ in their community, and that her daughters were ‘desperate to have their mummy back home safe’.
– February 1
Ms Bulley’s parents, Ernest and Dot Bulley, spoke to The Mirror about the ‘horror’ they faced over the possibility of never seeing her again.
Her father told the newspaper: ‘We just dread to think we will never see her again, if the worst came to the worst and she was never found, how will we deal with that for the rest of our lives.’
– February 2
Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a second witness who they had identified with the help of the public using CCTV – but they told police they did not have any further information to aid their inquiry.
Officers from the North West Police Underwater and Marine support unit searched the area close to where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found, while police divers scoured the River Wyre.
Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s family appealed to the public for help tracing her. Speaking with Sky News, her sister Louise Cunningham said: ‘There has got to be somebody who knows something and all we are asking is, no matter how small or big, if there is anything you remember that doesn’t seem right, then please reach out to the police.
‘Get in touch and get my sister back.’ Ms Bulley’s father said that his family hoped their interview would ‘spark a light’ that would lead to her being found.
– February 3
Lancashire Police said they were working on the hypothesis that Ms Bulley may have fallen into the River Wyre.
Superintendent Sally Riley urged against speculation, but said it was ‘possible’ that an ‘issue’ with Ms Bulley’s dog may have led her to the water’s edge.
She urged the public to look out for items of clothing Ms Bulley was last seen wearing, and gave an extensive list.
Ms Bulley’s friends also shared heartfelt appeals via television interviews, including Emma White, who told the BBC that Ms Bulley’s daughters were continually asking where she was.
– February 4
Friends reveal police are hoping to utilise Ms Bulley’s Fitbit data to help track her.
A new appeal is issued for a mystery ‘woman in yellow’ to come forward. The woman was pictured walking in the same area as Ms Bulley, pushing a stroller with a young child.
Ms Bulley’s partner speaks out to also cast doubt over the police theory she had fallen in the river. Mr Ansell says he will never give up hope of finding her.
Police confirm there is ‘no evidence’ Ms Bulley fell in the river, despite maintaining it is their lead theory.
A close family friend, named Tilly Ann, shared 11 key facts about her friend’s disappearance to Facebook.
– February 4
Police are pictured scouring the riverbank as they continue to search for Ms Bulley.