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09th Feb 2023

Major development in search for Nicola Bulley as focus moves ‘further downstream’

Steve Hopkins

The ‘focus of the search has moved further downstream.’

The search for Nicola Bulley has left the River Wyre, with divers now combing Morecambe Bay for the mother-of-two who has been missing for almost two weeks.

Two boats with specialist police teams have been seen in the sea, before heading upstream on either side of the River Wyre where Lancashire police believe Nicola accidentally fell in while walking her dog on January 27.

Sky News reported that police are now focusing on the mouth of the river, with Lancashire Police suggesting finding Nicola “in the open sea becomes more of a possibility.” This marks a big development in the search, with the focus now switching location.

In a statement, the force tried to reassure people that, while there was less activity than usual in the river, it is because the search has expanded to include Morecambe Bay.

The statement reads:

“People may have seen less police activity today than previously in the area of the river above the weir but that is not because we have stepped down our searches, it is because the focus of the search has moved further downstream into the area of the river which becomes tidal and then out towards the sea.”

Sky News reported that diving units have also been deployed to search parts of the 15km stretch of river from the bench where her phone and dog were found to the bay. In some parts, the river is tidal and fast-flowing, the broadcaster noted.

The development comes as the specialist group drafted in by Lancashire Police on Monday to help trawl the river for the 45-year-old pulled out of the operation on Wednesday night, suggesting the mortgage broker is not where police think she is, and amid calls for an abandoned house to be searched.

The Specialist Group International (SGI) team, led by Peter Faulding, declared Nicola was “categorically not” in the area of river where she was thought to have entered the water.

On Wednesday, he told reporters that he believes it is “unlikely” that she has been swept out to sea, adding: “My personal view is that I think it is a long way to go in a tidal river.”

Nicola was last seen walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre at 9.10 am, having earlier dropped her daughters, aged six and nine, at school. Her phone, still connected to a work call, and the dog’s lead and harness were found a short time later. Police are yet to account for a missing 10-minute period but their “main working hypothesis” is that she accidentally fell in the river.

At a press conference, superintendent Sally Riley of the Lancashire Constabulary said that while Nicola has not been found, it does not necessarily mean she wasn’t in the water.

“Our search has not found Nicola in the river and then a re-search in parts by SGI has found the same,” she said, but stressed police still believe the mum-of-two could have fallen into the water.

“In the light of other inquiries being discounted from the investigation so far… clearly our main belief is that Nicola did fall into the river,” she said.

“Clearly Mr Faulding isn’t included within all the investigation detail any more than the members of the public are that I’m briefing through these sorts of press conferences.”


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