UK gripped by mysterious disappearance of Nicola Bulley

The UK has been rocked by the strange disappearance of a mother of two who seemingly vanished without a trace while walking her dog.

Nicola Bulley, 45, was last seen walking along the river in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire, in north west England, not long after dropping her kids to school around 9.15am on January 27.

There has been no sign of Nicola in the 12 days since.

Her phone was left on a bench along the river path, along with her dog Willow’s harness and lead. Police are confident she didn’t leave the area — but they don’t know where she is.

Lancashire Police say they have amassed 500 pieces of evidence and lines of inquiry, are tracking down 700 drivers who passed through the area, and searching the river and river path.

So far, nothing indicates what happened to the beloved mother-of-two.

“This is the most baffling case I’ve ever worked on,” a top forensic investigator has said.

So gripped has the nation become by the strange disappearance, amateur sleuths have been spotted in the area where Nicola disappeared in an effort to help solve the mystery, prompting police warnings to stay away.

Meanwhile, Nicola’s family is at a loss at to what happened to the beloved partner and mother.

“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,” her partner Paul Ansell said in a statement this week.

“This has been such a tough time for the girls especially, but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends.”

Final moments before vanishing

On the morning of January 27, Nicola Bulley dropped off her two children, aged six and nine, at school and began her usual dog walk on the path along the River Wyre about 8.43am.

Her dog, Willow, was with her.

About seven minutes later, she briefly encountered a fellow walker and their dog.

At 8.53am, Nicola sent an email to her boss at the company where she worked as a mortgage advisor, and at 9.01am, logged into a Teams call.

She was sighted about nine minutes later.

Police said at 9.30am, the work call ended — but Nicola was still logged on. At 9.35am, Willow was spotted and the mobile was seen on a bench near the river, but Nicola was gone.

‘The most baffling case’

Nicola’s loved ones have been left shocked and confused by her disappearance. They have no idea how or why her usual morning walk has turned into a police investigation.

“The truth is if we look at it factually, no one knows (what has happened) until we have some evidence,” friend Heather Gibbons told the BBC, adding nothing about her disappearance was “making sense”.

Police said CCTV footage indicates Nicola did not leave the area. As the search enters its 12th day, police are focusing on the river path, having already spoken to numerous witnesses, analysed Nicola’s mobile phone and Fitbit, and searched a derelict house and empty caravans near the river.

Meanwhile, a team of forensic divers from the private firm Specialist Group International (SGI) have been scouring about a five kilometre stretch of the river to help police with the search.

So far, “no signs” of the missing woman have emerged, SGI founder and forensic specialist Peter Faulding said.

“This is the most baffling case I’ve ever worked on,” Mr Faulding told the UK’s TalkTV on Monday.

“After 24, 25 years of doing this type of work and hundreds of cases, I am totally baffled.”

Supt Sally Riley from Lancashire Police said there may have been an “issue” with Nicola’s dog that led her to the edge of the water.

“It remains our belief that Nicola fell into the river and that this is a missing person inquiry,” the superintendent said.

However, Mr Faulding said there was no sign of a drowning.

“Normally when a person drowns, if they are left a number of days they don’t move very far,” Mr Faulding said, according to The Sun.

“This is not a fast tidal river. So I would have expected her to be found by the police divers by now.”

Of the 500 “active” pieces of evidence and lines of inquiry amassed by police, “nothing of note” has been found, Supt Riley said.

Police are also painstakingly interviewing drivers of about 700 vehicles that drove through St Michael’s on Wyre in the five minute period — around 9.10am or 9.15am — when Nicola vanished.

Lancashire Police say they are keeping “fully open minded” about what happened to Nicola, but have so far failed to detect a “suspicious” element in her disappearance.

“Every third party element or criminal element has been looked into and discounted,” Supt Riley said.

The top cop also warned members of the public to not “take it upon themselves to take the law into their own hands by trying to, for example, break into empty property”.

“They may mean well, they may want to help. But they can help in thinking back if they were in the area to what information they may have of relevance to the police and holding the family in their thoughts,” she said.

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