The 10 key questions as hunt for Nicola Bulley continues
When will divers finish search for Nicola Bulley and why was her phone left behind? 10 key questions as hunt for the mother of two continues
- Read more: Nicola’s partner says, ‘I have two little girls who miss their mummy’
As the riddle of mother-of-two Nicola Bulley – who ‘vanished into thin air’ while walking her dog Willow – continues, there remain 10 key questions that could prove crucial to solving the case.
1. Where was the broken CCTV camera?
According to a friend of Nicola and her partner Paul Asnell, CCTV at a ‘residential park’ on the upper field had one camera not working.
The woman named Tilly Ann, who said she was sharing the information ‘with permission’, added that ‘unfortunately’ the camera was ‘the one that would seen Nikki on the field towards the gate.’
Google satellite images show just one CCTV camera with a view of where Nicola was last seen at 9.10am. It appears to be located in the car park behind a row of homes located off Garstang Road on the A586.
It comes as police said today there are 10 minutes they cannot account for, between the last sighting at 9.10am and 9.20am, when Nicola’s phone is believed to have been on a bench while connected to a work call.
Nicola Bulley, 45, was last seen over a week ago walking next to the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire
A Google satellite image appears to show CCTV cameras overlooking the last spot where Nicola was seen by a fellow dogwalker on the day she vanished
Superintendent Sally Riley told the Lancashire Post: ‘Several exits of the riverside area have CCTV covering them or exits are locked and therefore couldn’t have been passed through by Nicola.
‘There’s only a very small area onto Garstang Lane toward the A586 which is not covered by CCTV and that’s why we’re appealing today for dashcam footage or for people who may have been walking on Garstang Lane or driving in the area to come forward if they can.’
2. What is the latest CCTV image of Nicola?
In an update on the search last night, Lancashire Police said its working hypothesis remains that Ms Bulley fell into the river, but that the force remains ‘open minded’.
The update came with a new CCTV picture of Ms Bulley, showing her walking her dog Willow on the day she vanished, while wearing her black puffer jacket – which appears blue in the grainy image.
She is also wearing leggings and ankle boots with her hair tied in a ponytail. It is not clear at what point in the walk the CCTV footage was recorded.
Police last night released a new CCTV image of missing mother Nicola Bulley (pictured) as the search continues
The force added: ‘Our enquiries so far have included searches of the river and riverbank which have extended all the way to the sea using specialist search teams, sonar, search dogs, drone and helicopter, house to house and CCTV.
‘We have also spoken to numerous witnesses, analysed Nicola’s mobile phone and fitbit and searched the derelict house on the other side of the river as well as any empty caravans in the vicinity.
‘We have received a huge amount of information into the enquiry, all of which is being looked at, and we are extremely grateful to everyone who has assisted our investigation so far.’
3. When will the river search be completed?
Police last night said their search for Nicola on the river and riverbank has already extended all the way to the sea using specialist search teams, sonar, search dogs, drone and helicopter.
They were joined yesterday by Forensic expert Peter Faulding, founder of Specialist Group International, who said he has never seen a case so unusual in his 20 years of working in the field, adding: ‘We just don’t know, we’re looking for an invisible person at the moment and we’ve got no idea.’
Mr Faulding and his team of expert divers are back on site today after scouring ‘three or four miles’ of river until darkness fell last night.
The specialist search continues today, Tuesday, as the expert leading it says he has never seen a case so ‘unusual’
READ MORE: The ‘Human Mole’ leading the hunt for missing Nicola Bulley
He revealed that today the team will ‘focus our search upstream in the non tidal section above the weir, and about one mile upstream including past the bench where Nicola’s phone was found.’
Mr Faulding told the Blackpool Gazette that his team will search until around 7pm each day, in boats that are well-equipped with built-in flood lights.
He added: ‘We are going to be working our hardest, we’ll probably be working under darkness tonight for a while and that’s my intention to help the family.’
It will take them three to four days to complete their search of the river.
Faulding added: ‘If we can’t find her in the next three or four days in this river, if she’s not here, then I’m confident that she’s not in this stretch of river. I’d be very confident of that.’
4. Does the river have a strong current?
According to diving expert Mr Faulding, the part of the river where Nicola was last seen is not fast-moving.
However he has described it as ‘black murky water’ that can be difficult to see in.
He told the Blackpool Gazette: ‘It’s not a fast tidal river. It’s around two or three metres deep, but there are a lot of shallows.’
Mr Faulding said he would have to check for any drains in the riverbed while re-checking all areas already probed by police.
He added: ‘You can search one day and the body can move down from another location so everything has got to be rechecked.’
5. What tools are being used to search for Nicola?
Police and the diving team lead by forensic expert Mr Faulding are employing sonar technology, helicopters, drones and more in a bid to find Nicola.
The star of the show is a high-tech 1800 kHz Side Scan Sonar, which is capable of scanning the river and showing ‘every stick and stone on the river bed’.
The high-tech equipment is being used by Mr Faulding’s team, and is much more powerful than the police-owned equivalent.
Mr Faulding added: ‘I’ve got over 20 years experience of working with sonar so I know what I’m looking for. It’s not just the sonar it’s the operator as well, you’ve got to know what you’re doing to use it properly.’
Workers from a private underwater search and recovery company, Specialist Group International, including CEO Peter Faulding (top) on February 7
Drones with night vision were also roped into the search last night with a dramatic search of Shard Bridge – which ultimately turned out to be negative.
A Lancashire Police spokesperson told LancsLive: ‘We were called at 5.51pm today to Shard Road, Hambleton, in relation to the search for Nicola Bulley who is missing from St Michael’s on Wyre. The search of the sand and surrounding area near to Shard Bridge by Police and the Coastguard proved negative.’
Helicopters have also been scanning the river to see if they could spot any sign of missing Nicola.
6. Why was her phone left on a bench?
Nicola’s phone was found on a bench near to where she was last seen by a fellow dogwalker, alongside her dog Willow’s harness.
Many people are asking why she would have left her phone there, particularly as she was connected to a work conference call. Whatever happened, there was no time to end the call or to alert others on the call.
But it is possible Ms Bulley deliberately chose not to terminate the call because she believed she would be returning to it once she had dealt with whatever needed her immediate attention. Detectives have examined the phone, but so far there is nothing to indicate anyone but Ms Bulley placed it on the bench.
However forensic and diving expert Mr Faulding argued that the phone may have been left behind as a ‘decoy’ by a ‘third party’ involved in the disappearance.
This comes after he noted that had she fallen in the water, her dog – which was found at the scene – would have caused a disturbance.
7. Why was she on mute with no video for her business meeting?
The conference call was a team meeting with colleagues from her firm Exclusively Mortgages. It started at 9.01am and Ms Bulley dialled in from her phone.
Ben Pociecha, the firm’s director, said: ‘It seems as if she was muted and didn’t have her camera on. She was listening in while walking her dog. The police are investigating the call.’
It was not unusual for Ms Bulley to attend meetings in this manner. The company is based in Keighley, West Yorkshire, a 90-minute drive, and there was no need for Ms Bulley to attend in person or even take part beyond listening.
8. Could Nicola’s Fitbit provide any clues?
Former undercover detective for the Met Police Peter Bleksley spoke on This Morning about why he believes Fitbit data is key in the disappearance case.
Nicola was wearing the device on her wrist the day that she vanished.
‘Fitbits are a device largely worn on your wrist which will track physical activity, heart rate and particular steps whether you’re walking, running or swimming – as some of the more expensive ones are waterproof to a depth of 50m,’ he explained.
‘Let me just hypothesise for a moment please, as opposed to speculate. Say for example I was sitting here wearing a Fitbit for the minutes this conversation was going ahead.
‘That Fitbit would show that I was static, that I wasn’t moving. If I then after some minutes being still get up and take just a few steps to walk off set, before becoming static again, those few steps would be synced to a phone or iPad.
‘So if the police have looked at the Fitbit, which they say they have, and they have Fitbit data which might support their theory Nicola has gone into the water, I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to make that public.’
9. Could Nicola have been abducted?
Since her disappearance, police have maintained that the evidence does not point towards Nicola having been abducted.
There is only one exit point that was not covered by CCTV, which means any would-be abductor would have to have known that in advance – or been extremely lucky.
Additionally, forensic and diving expert Peter Faulding said he spoke to Nicola’s partner, who revealed she did not have any enemies.
He said: ‘I spoke to Paul last night and asked him if she had any enemies, any stalkers, the normal questions you would ask. And nothing, he said no. And she was totally normal that day when she left, nothing out the ordinary.’
If so, that would mean any would-be abductor would likely have acted on impulse. But they would have faced the difficult task of overpowering or forcibly removing Nicola from an open field and taking her away from the area, most likely by car, without being seen or caught on CCTV.
But in a discussion with Mark Longhurst on GB News, Martyn Underhill, former Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said it was still a possibility, and that he could not understand why Lancashire Police were treating the case as a ‘tragic accident’.
He said: ‘I’m finding this all very odd and slightly concerning, because as someone who used to run murder enquiries and now lectures on murder enquiries, there are two golden rules in any case like this.
‘One is to respect the golden hour – the first 24 hours are absolutely crucial to a case like this. And the second is to keep an open mind.’
He added: ‘I cannot believe that you’ve got senior officers saying this is clearly a tragic accident. There is a lot to suggest this could have been an unexpected attack or a kidnap of a lady distracted on her phone and with a dog.
‘And don’t forget, the dog was found dry and out of its harness, both of which are unusual.’
10. What is the latest statement from her family?
Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell issued another heartbreaking statement overnight, announcing his desperation for ‘the answers we all so badly need’.
Mr Ansell shared a voice note with Sky News saying: ‘We have to find her safe and well. I can’t put those girls to bed again tonight with no answers.’
Ms Bulley is pictured here with her partner Paul Ansell
In an earlier statement released through Lancashire Police, he added: ‘It’s been ten days now since Nicola went missing and I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back.
‘This has been such a tough time for the girls especially but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends, as well as the wider community and I want to thank them for their love and support.
‘We are also really grateful to Peter and his team from SGI for coming up and helping support the work of Lancashire Police as they continue their investigation.
‘If anyone has any information which could help find Nicola, I urge them to get in touch with the police and help us provide the answers we all so badly need.’
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