'Intricacies' of local knowledge 'crucial' in finding Nicola Bulley

‘Little intricacies’ of local knowledge could be ‘absolutely crucial’ in finding missing Nicola Bulley, expert detective says

  • The detective said ‘armchair detectives’ can help solve missing persons cases
  • But public involvement can be ‘frustrating’ for police as it can destroy evidence
  • Read more: Diving expert will return to start new search for Nicola Bulley on land

Local knowledge could be ‘absolutely crucial’ in finding missing Nicola Bulley but interest from members of the public must be managed, an expert detective has said. 

This weekend St Michael’s on Wyre was descended on by members of the public, who were keen to do their bit in searching for the mother of two. 

The 45-year-old went missing while walking her dog in the Lancashire village on Friday 27 January. 

Detective Martyn Underhill, who has worked on 50 murder cases, said detectives ‘cannot beat local knowledge’ in the hunt for a missing person or murder suspect.

He said: ‘The one thing I’ve learnt, and I’ve worked on 50 murders and I’m now lecturing on murders in university, is you cannot beat local knowledge.

Local knowledge could be ‘absolutely crucial’ in finding missing Nicola Bulley (pictured), a detective has claimed


Detective Martyn Underhill (pictured), who has worked on 50 murder cases and now gives talks on investigation techniques, said detectives ‘cannot beat local knowledge’

‘They know little intricacies – a little tree that’s got a root that sticks out that someone will trip up on if they walked over it.

‘It is silly things like that can become absolutely crucial in solving a murder or a missing person. 

‘You need armchair detectives,’ he told the Sky News Daily podcast.

Mr Underhill added that it is common for members of the public to want to get involved in solving a high-profile case.

‘We have had armchair detectives since Adam and Eve. The first time was for Jack the Ripper,’ he said.  

At times this can be ‘frustrating’ for the police and detectives, he said, noting his experience in searching for missing Sarah Payne in 2000. 

‘We had over 1,000 people a day turning up trying to help find Sarah and over 500 psychics contacting us saying they want to help.

‘The problems have got bigger since Sarah because of technology… The public literally stomp all over your evidence.’ 

‘Nine out of 10 missing people are solved by the public, not by the police. But equally, you have to manage that expectation. 

‘And I call it the tail wagging the dog.

Mounted police in Knott End-on-Sea take part in the search for Nicola

Mortgage adviser Nicola Bulley, 45, went missing along the River Wyre on January 27 (Pictured with partner Paul Ansell)

Friends and family tied ribbons to a footbridge over the River Wyre, including one from partner Paul Ansell following Nicola Bulley’s disappearance

READ MORE HERE: Diving expert will return to start a new search for Nicola Bulley on land in attempt to find where she ‘could have been buried’ – and promises her family ‘she’s not in the river… if someone’s in the woods, I will find them’


‘You have to have clear strategies in place that the public feel like they’re being involved – [so] the armchair detectives don’t feel rejected,’ he said.

Mr Underhill said he thought there were a number of factors that have driven Nicola’s case into extreme popularity with the public and above the ‘average’ missing persons case in the UK. 

‘One is the beautiful photo of Nicola standing in front of the river where she disappeared, which is ironic and eye-catching. 

‘Then you’ve got the mobile phone story which is really unusual – that she is actually meant to be engaged in a Teams phone call at the time she disappeared and her phone is still there. 

‘And then you have got the other public interest. The public always take an interest in animals. There’s a beautiful dog found at the scene.’

It comes as today the diving expert who scoured the River Wyre for missing Nicola Bulley is set to start a new search on land in attempt to find where she ‘could have been buried’.

Peter Faulding, who carried out underwater searches for the mother-of-two, told MailOnline today that ‘if someone’s in the woods I will find them.’

The world-leading forensic search specialist says he is ‘confident’ the 45-year-old is not in the water, as suggested by police.

Mr Faulding said it’s time to ‘consider all options’ and has vowed to look at ‘possible deposition sites’ –  especially since there was a report of ‘suspicious people hanging around’ the area where she disappeared.

Meanwhile, the ex-detective who exposed Jimmy Savile’s crimes and investigated the abduction of Madeleine McCann will now probe Nicola Bulley’s disappearance.

Mark Williams-Thomas, 53, is planning to travel to St Michael’s on Wyre this week to look into what could have happened to the mother of two.

He hopes to rule out a number of outlandish theories aired by conspiracy theorists about the 45-year-old’s disappearance. 

Experts have identified a number of possibilities and clues that could help case

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