The Nichola Bulley disappearance has had the nation and media fixated on the case, there has been a lot of speculation and it has now been 20 days since the 45 year old mortgage adviser went missing while walking her dog near the River Wyre. What have the police done so far to find her?
In the first major statement outlining the investigation, police have said they have visited 300 premises, spoken to 300 people, received 1500 pieces of information, identified 700 vehicles and had 50 dashcam submissions received
Police also continue to comb the River Wyre and surrounding area down and out into the sea. They have also consulted with several national experts in their field, including environmental and tidal experts.
This investigation involves a dedicated team of more than 40 detectives sifting through hundreds of hours of CCTV and dashcam footage, speaking to numerous witnesses, carrying out digital enquiries and examining hundreds of pieces of information submitted by the public.
The search of the river included an intense search around the bench location, using sonar, underwater cameras and police divers. Police were also joined by SGI and Fire Service, who deployed their underwater drone ROV and pole cameras. This search was conducted down to the weir. Cumbria Police specialist search dogs joined the search too.
Below the weir Police Officers, Firefighters and Mountain Rescue carried out surface searches downstream towards Great Eccleston. The Fire Service boat was deployed along with assistance from Lancaster Search and Rescue volunteers. Police divers waded the weir, with the NPAS helicopter covering the length of the river.
Police have continued expanding the search further to the sea following expert advice from the Environment Agency, academics and government oceanographer. Sonar was used continually down the river as far as Cartford Bridge, where a tidal stretch starts. Defence science and technology laboratory have assisted with these searches too.
From Cartford to the coast HM Coastguard, Police Marine Units, Police Dogs, West Cumbria Search and Rescue and volunteers from Specialist Search Dogs carried out continued searches. They were supported by Fleetwood Inshore Lifeboat Maritime Volunteer Service.
Police have also carried out a search of the land in the immediate vicinity of the area where Nicola was last seen. This consisted of police search teams with trained Counter Terrorist Officers carrying out extensive area searches. They were joined by police dogs and drones.
Fire and Rescue dogs and Firefighters were on the ground assisting the search efforts, as well as 24 Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue volunteers.
The National Police Air Service helicopter was deployed to search the area.
Wyreside Farm caravan site and the caravans were searched, as well as the abandoned house identified.
All searches carried out followed the nationally established search procedures.
- 08:26hrs – Nicola leaves her home address.
- 08:40hrs – Nicola’s children start school.
- 09:01hrs – Nicola was with her dog in a field south of Rowanwater caravan park at St Michael’s on Wyre. She logged into a Teams call. She remained on mute with her video off through out the call, which was not unusual for Nicola.
- 09:10hrs – A witness who knows Nicola saw her on the upper field.
- 09:33hrs – The phone was found on the bench, still connected to the Teams call, which had ended at 09:30hrs.
- 11:01hrs – Nicola was reported to us as a missing person and immediately graded as high risk.
- 12:00hrs – Specialist officers were assigned, commencing foot patrols including evidence gathering associating with missing persons, as well as speaking to family, friends and witnesses.
- 12:18hrs – Police drone was utilised to search the fields and immediate area.
- 13:10hrs – National Police Air Service (NPAS) deployed to the same area.
- 13:14hrs – Lancashire FRS on scene using thermal imaging, search dogs and land searches.
- 14:30hrs – Partner agencies, including mountain rescue, underwater search and marine units were deployed.
Search efforts continue at this intensity for the proceeding days.
Nicola is white, 45 years old, 5ft 3ins tall, with light brown shoulder-length hair. She speaks with an Essex accent. She was last seen wearing a long, knee length black quilted gilet with a hood. She had a black Engelbert Strauss coat underneath which had long sleeves and came to her waist. She was wearing tight black jeans and had long green walking socks tucked into her jeans. She was wearing size 5 ankle length green wellington boots from Next.
Her hair was tied into a ponytail. She was wearing a pale blue Fitbit.
Nicola was reported missing at 11am on Friday, January 27th and, due to vulnerabilities reported to us at the time, was immediately graded as a high-risk missing person. Nicola’s family continue to be our absolute focus and our thoughts remain with them. We have specially trained officers who continue to support them and update them daily.
The police have described how Nicola had some vulnerabilities at the time she went missing and we just wanted to expand on that a little.
The police said “Sadly, it is clear from speaking to Paul and the family that Nicola had in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause and that these struggles had resurfaced over recent months. This caused some real challenges for Paul and the family.
As a result of those issues, a response car staffed by both police and health professionals attended a report of concern for welfare at Nicola’s home address on January 10th. No one has been arrested in relation to this incident, but it is being investigated.
It is an unusual step for us to take to go into this level of detail about someone’s private life, but we felt it was important to clarify what we meant when we talked about vulnerabilities to avoid any further speculation or misinterpretation.
We have explained to Nicola’s family why we have released this further information and we would ask that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.”
Police have conducted physical searches of both the river and the land and have used specialist resources from the police and other agencies including underwater search teams, drones, horses, dogs and the police helicopter.
Because many of our key witnesses know Nicola, and there is a significant amount of CCTV coverage in this area, we have been able to, from very early on in the investigation, plot Nicola’s movements and significantly narrow down the timings, to focus on a period of time where we need to concentrate our enquiries.
What we have established is that:
- Nicola was in the upper field at approximately 09.10
- We know that her mobile phone is in the area of the bench at approximately 09.20
- At approximately 09.33, a local dog walker finds Willow running around off her lead.
- Nicola’s mobile phone is faced upwards on the bench.
- Willow’s harness and lead were halfway between the bench and the river.
We are aware of reports in the media about a red van being reported to us and we would like to stress that while this has been reported to us and we are making efforts to identify the owner at this time there is nothing to suggest this was anything other than one of many hundreds of vehicles in the area that morning. The inquiry team are working through hundreds of pieces of information and reports such as this in the media can distract them from genuine enquiries.
Throughout this investigation we continue to keep an open mind about what might have happened to Nicola, and we continue to look at all the potential scenarios as we would in any major enquiry. Based on all the extensive work looking at CCTV, dashcam and other evidence, there is nothing to suggest that Nicola left the field. Due to this, we continue to believe the most likely scenario is that Nicola has fallen into the river. However, we continue to have a dedicated investigation team working on this enquiry. We will continue to be as transparent as we can be and to release information when we can, but you will appreciate that it must be factual.