Nicola Bulley: A mum took her dog for a walk in the north of England last week. Her partner says she ‘disappeared into thin air’
On a cold January morning, a mother-of-two dropped her young daughters off at school before taking her springer spaniel for their usual walk by the river.
Mortgage broker Nicola Bulley greeted fellow dog walkers as she took a route along the River Wyre in Lancashire, northern England, police say.
During the walk, she dialed a work conference call, keeping her camera off and her microphone muted. By 9:30 a.m., the call for teams was over, but Bulley remained connected.
Shortly after, her dog Willow was found wandering alone. His phone was recovered from a bench by the river. But Bulley was gone.
The 45-year-old went missing in the village of St. Michael’s on Wyre on Friday January 27. She has not been seen or heard from since.
Stephanie Benyon, a friend of Bulley’s whose children attend the same school, told CNN she was a “kind, loyal and caring person who adores her two daughters, her family and her friends.”
A search party launched by Lancashire Police involving specialist resources is now into its eighth day.
Officers say they don’t believe his disappearance is suspicious and that people “should not speculate or spread false rumours”. However, that did little to allay public concern, with some local women fearful of going out in the village where Bulley disappeared, the British tabloid Daily Mirror reported.
It also comes at a time of heightened distrust of the police, after former London Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick recently admitted to a litany of sexual assaults against women, sparking calls for an investigation into the UK’s largest police service.
Others walking their dogs that morning were the last people to see Bulley before she disappeared – and it seems there was nothing unusual about her mannerisms.
According to Lancashire Police Superintendent Sally Riley, Bulley knew the area well and often took the same walk.
A friend of Bulley’s told the Mirror she had since spoken to two dog walkers who had seen Bulley that day, saying she had “laughed and joked” with them as she passed.
- She was spotted by a dog walker in a field with Willow about 8:50 am, police said. Willow wasn’t in the lead.
- AT 8:53Bulley emailed his boss.
- She logged into the Teams work call at 9:01 “This was all normal behavior for Nicola,” Superintendent Wiley said during a press briefing on Friday afternoon.
- Its last confirmed sighting dates back to 9:10 a.m.when another dog walker known to Bulley saw her walking with Willow on Upper Field.
- Police believe his phone was on the bench near the riverbank at 9:20 a.m. after checking the phone records.
- The work call ended 10 minutes later at 9:30 am
- A passerby discovered the phone nearby 9:35 a.m. He was still connected to the conference call. His brown spaniel was found loose between the field gate and the bench. Lancashire Police confirmed to CNN the dog was dry and did not appear to have entered the water.
Bulley’s partner of 12 years, Paul Ansell, rushed to the scene after receiving a call from his daughters’ school that the family dog had been found, Bulley’s friend told the Mirror . He quickly phoned the police.
At Friday’s press conference, Superintendent Riley said officers were “particularly interested” in the time between placing the phone on the bench at 9:20 a.m. and retrieving the device 10 minutes later.
“We only have a 10-minute window in which we cannot account for Nicola’s movements,” she said.
Using underwater drones, divers traveled the full length of the River Wyre downstream. On the ground, the search for Bulley continues, with officers using specially trained police dogs.
Amid growing speculation and local safety concerns, Superintendent Riley told the press conference that their “primary working hypothesis” was that Bulley had fallen into the river.
“The investigation team undertook a number of dash cam, CCTV and doorbell footage. This has allowed us to eliminate any trace of Nicola having left the riverside so far, which is really important.
“We believe Nicola was in the riparian zone and stayed in the riparian zone. We remain open to any inquiries that may cause us to question this, but at this time we understand that she was down by the river.
Bulley’s family, however, were not happy with the police theory. In a Facebook post, her sister Louise Cunningham insisted the case was “far from over”.
“In view of the latest media update from the police, may I add that there is no evidence that she went into the river, it’s just a theory. Everyone must keep the With an open mind as not all CCTVs and leads have been thoroughly investigated, police confirmed the matter is far from over.
Meanwhile, concerned residents eager to help with the search operation took part in organized marches.
Benyon told CNN how the local community came together to help find her. “We organized walks around the river from St Michaels to Knott End for the community to follow. Today [Friday] we found ourselves on the main road appealing to witnesses with banners and signs.
“We are desperately trying to find Nikki to bring her home to her family and friends who all love her very much.”
Superintendent Riley acknowledged there was a high level of concern in the local community. “However, parts of the riverbank are treacherous, and we ask that no one put themselves in harm’s way and that efforts by police and partner agencies to find Nicola are not compromised,” she said.
Bulley’s family urged anyone who may have information to come forward.
“Something must have been missed. Someone knows something the most. People don’t just disappear into thin air,” his sister Louise Cunningham said in a recent interview with Sky News.
“There has to be someone who knows something and all we ask is, no matter how big or small, if there’s something you remember that’s not right seen, then please contact the police.”
A statement released by Bulley’s family said her two daughters, aged six and nine, are “desperate” to be reunited with their mother safely.
Bulley’s partner Ansell described the situation as “perpetual hell”.
“We are living this, but it doesn’t feel real. All we can say is that we have to find her. She has two little girls who need their mom at home,” he said, according to PA Media.
“We’re never, ever going to give up hope, of course not, but it’s like she disappeared into thin air. It’s just insane,” the UK press agency quoted him as saying.