Did dog issue lead Nicola Bulley to river’s edge – police fear missing woman fell into water


Police investigating the disappearance of a mother-of-two say they believe she “sadly” fell into a river as they focus on a 10-minute window when she went missing a week ago.

Nicola Bulley, 45, vanished in Lancashire while out walking her dog last Friday morning after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school.

The mortgage adviser, from Inskip, was last seen at about 9.10am on a path by the River Wyre in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre.

Latest updates from police news conference

The 10-minute window that officers are focusing on is from 9.10am to 9.20am as they cannot account for her movements during that time.

Police believe she did not leave the riverside area – after they viewed dashcam, CCTV, and doorbell footage – and say their “main working hypothesis” is that she fell into the water.

Her phone was thought to be on the bench at 9.20am and was found by a witness at around 9.33am still connected to a work Teams call which ended at 9.30am.

The same witness also found Ms Bulley’s springer spaniel, called Willow, running loose between a nearby gate to the field and the bench at 9.33am, while the dog’s harness was on the grass, between the bench and the river’s edge.

Officers believe “there’s no third-party or criminal involvement” and that it was “a tragic case of a missing person”.

There has been an extensive search of the area, along the River Wyre and 15km (nine miles) to the sea, in an operation which has included specialist dogs, drones, a police helicopter and divers.

Read more:
A timeline of Ms Bulley’s movements in the hour before she vanished
Nicola’s partner ‘staying as strong as he can’
Missing woman’s friends hope for ‘lightbulb moment’

Nicola Bulley

Police look for Ms Bulley’s clothing as part of search

Speaking at a news conference, Superintendent Sally Riley gave an update on what Ms Bulley was wearing when she disappeared, including an ankle-length black quilted gilet jacket, and a black Engelbert Strauss waist-length coat, which was worn underneath.

She said officers were trying to trace her clothing and accessories and urged people to look out for the items.

Along with the coat and gilet, Ms Riley said Ms Bulley was also wearing tight-fitting black jeans, long green walking socks tucked into her jeans, ankle-length green Next wellies, a necklace and a pale blue Fitbit.

She said: “It’s really important that the public pay heed to those very specific clothing descriptions please, because factual sightings of those items would be very useful to us.”

Possible issue with the dog?

Ms Riley also said there may have been an “issue with the dog that led her to the water’s edge, she puts her phone down to go and deal with the dog momentarily, and Nicola may have fallen in”.

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‘I don’t know how I am coping’

“The dog was dry” and Ms Bulley can swim, the senior officer added.

Forensic search and rescue expert Peter Faulding told Sky News: “Normally, if someone would trip, they would have their phone in their hand.

“The dog was found dry, so it clearly didn’t go in the river, and that’s what gets my suspicion about this case.”

The search is continuing, with Ms Bulley’s friends retracing her route earlier on Friday.

Her partner, Paul Ansell, has said he will “never lose hope”.

He also said he kept playing “every scenario” in his head “around and around” and that his focus was on supporting their two young daughters.

Nicola Bulley

Mr Ansell said: “I don’t know how I am coping. I don’t want to think about that. I am just focused on the girls.”

He went on: “We’re never, ever going to lose hope, of course we’re not, but it is as though she has vanished into thin air.”

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