Retired detective says police are right to pursue theory that the missing mother fell into the water
A retired detective has claimed that police are right to still think that missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley fell in the river Wyre.
The 45-year-old mortgage adviser, who was last seen on January 27, disappeared from the small village of St Micheals on Wyre in Lancashire.
A massive search operation has been launched and police have spent weeks combing the area and calling for witnesses to come forward.
Detectives were seen searching an area seven miles away from where Nicola went missing earlier this week and the search was expanded to Morecambe Bay.
Police have insisted that their main working hypothesis is that Ms Bulley fell in the river as investigations enter a seventeenth day, despite suggestions from friends and independent investigators that it is unlikely.
Retired Detective Superintendent Julie Mackay told The Mirror that police would be basing their hypothesis on three factors.
The 45-year-old mortgage adviser, who was last seen on January 27, went missing from the small village of St Micheals on Wyre in Lancashire
A map of the area showing the location of the broken camera, the path leading to Garstang Road that is not covered by CCTV (top right circle) and a riverside path leading from the Wyreside Farm Caravan Park through to the A586 (left circle)
The fact that there has been no new information, that it is unlikely to be criminal due to the time Ms Bulley disappeared and that the wintry conditions will make it harder to find her will all be part of police decisions.
The former detective, who solved a 32-year-old murder case, said she still believes that Ms Bulley went into the river, and said just because she hasn’t yet been found doesn’t mean she isn’t there.
‘I still believe she’s gone in that river – today when you look at the last two weeks and review it, nothing has changed,’ she explained.
The 45-year-old has not been found despite extensive searches by police and by forensic expert Peter Faulding and his team.
Ms Mackay said debris in the river may have hidden the mother-of-two and that because it was cold any body would take longer to decompose.
‘It’s not as unusual as you think. If she’s then sadly gone over that Wyre it becomes tidal and then the possibility that she’s gone out to sea is still quite possible.’
Retired police detective Julie Mackay said she believes investigators are right to think the missing mother went into the river
Ms Mackay had previously said that her experience of working along the Somerset coast showed people aren’t always immediately found if it involves water.
She added that Ms Bulley’s winter clothes could have weighed her down and that cold water shock would have disorientated her.
‘That cold water shock very quickly disorientates you and with winter clothes it’s heavy and panic will set in.
‘And once you start losing control it can be quite difficult to regain it.’
The retired police officer said she didn’t believe that there was criminal involvement as most attacks on women are spontaneous.
‘It’s rare they [the attacker] would camp out the area, check the route, the CCTV and do it at all around 9am.’
It comes as Nicola’s desolate partner Paul Ansell detailed his own movements that day in an interview on Channel 5.
Mr Ansell said: ‘Nothing was out of the ordinary, everything was normal.
‘I work for a US firm so my hours are like six hours behind UK time.
‘I usually start a little bit later in the morning. When Nikki takes the girls to school, I then know I’ve got an hour to myself.
‘I went in the house, put the kettle on, made a cup of tea, went into the living room and thought I’ve got on an hour now to chill and get myself ready for the day.’
Nicola typically came home from her dog walks at around 9.45am, or 10am ‘at a push’.
When she didn’t return on January 27, Mr Ansell said he wasn’t ‘massively concerned’ at first. He started to worry at 10.30am.
Mr Ansell said: ‘I thought you know, she’s quite, quite late now.
People are being urged to call police if they have any dashcam footage from the time she vanished
Mr Ansell said he knew his partner’s disappearance wasn’t normal ‘straight away’ in the Channel 5 interview
Paul Ansell, 44, (left) accompanied by 45-year-old Nicola Bulley’s beloved Springer spaniel Willow, was interviewed by Channel 5 News’s Dan Walker (right)
‘More late than usual. So I tried ringing her phone. And there was no answer. I tried ringing again on WhatsApp. And again, there was no answer. I tried the mobile again and no answer.
‘Now I sort of started to get a bit panicky.
‘That’s when I thought I’m gonna have to go down there and see if she’s alright.
‘See if I can see the car or see what’s going on.
‘I still expected that I’d just get there and there she is.’
Mr Ansell said he usually goes to the gym on Fridays at lunchtime.
He said: ‘I quickly got my gym stuff on. I just thought basically I’m gonna go out, find her, come home, do a bit of work.’
The father-of-two detailed his movements minute-by-minute on the day his partner vanished during a dog walk in Lancashire
A police Search and Rescue team in Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire, on the southern side of Morecambe Bay on Friday morning
As he was getting ready to leave, the receptionist at their daughters’ school rang and told him Nicola’s phone had been found on a bench.
He jumped in the car and drove to the river, where he calmed Springer spaniel Willow and was handed Nicola’s phone.
He told Dan Walker: ‘I knew straight away that it wasn’t normal’, adding that he became ‘extremely concerned’ knowing Ms Bulley would not have left Willow alone in the field.
‘I know that never in a million years would she leave Willow. Willow is like our third child.’
He added: ‘People don’t just vanish into thin air. It’s absolutely impossible. So something has happened. Something has happened. Find out what it is.
‘You cannot walk your dog down a river and just vanish into thin air.’
The three reasons police believe Nicola Bulley is in the river
Police are right to believe that the missing mother-of-two vanished into the river Wyre, a former officer has said.
The three reasons the ‘main working hypothesis’ remains the same are:
- No new information has given them a reason to think otherwise.
- It is unlikely to be criminal because she disappeared early in the day.
- The winter conditions would make it harder to find her.
After joining others who were searching the area, the group decided to call 999.
The police told him to go home with Willow.
Mr Ansell said: ‘I’d gone home then, taken Willow back, a police officer had come to the house and although I was obviously extremely worried and concerned I still expected any second they’d just go, “Oh, found her”.
‘That never happened. The day then just spiralled and end of the day came and no answers.
‘Here we are, two weeks later.’
The distraught father-of-two insisted Nicola ‘is coming home’ as he launched a fresh appeal in the two-week search for the missing mother, who he had been planning to marry with his daughters as her bridesmaids.
He also said he believes something must have happened to his partner ‘in the village’ of St Michael’s on Wyre.
Mr Ansell said he is ‘100 per cent’ sure that the mortgage adviser did not fall in the River Wyre in Lancashire.
He revealed they had frequently spoken about getting married, but had to put their plans on hold due to the pandemic – adding he hopes to be able to still marry her.
Although he doesn’t believe Nicola fell into the river, he said he ‘cannot fault the police in any of this’.
‘They have been incredible,’ he said.
However, he suggested the phone and harness found at the scene could ‘be a decoy’.
He added: ‘I’m personally a hundred per cent convinced it’s not the river. The only thing we’re bothered about is finding her, nothing else matters.’
Mr Ansell said: ‘The most obvious thing, of course has always been the river. It’s always been my gut instinct and her sisters, and family that, that isn’t the case.
‘Extensive searching, as you know is probably well aware has gone on in that river.’