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Police Rule Out Several ‘Distracting’ Public Theories About Nicola Bulley’s Disappearance

Police held a news conference about the disappearance of Nicola Bulley on Wednesday, as the high-profile case reaches its twentieth day.

The 45-year-old mortgage adviser first went missing on January 27 while walking her dog Willow near the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

She was last seen at 9.10am. Her dog’s lead and her phone were later found by another dog-walker on a bench near the river around 9.33am.

Officers are now focusing on what happened may have happened to her between 9.10am and 9.20am.

Police have come under intense scrutiny throughout the investigation for focusing on the idea Bulley fell in the river.

Meanwhile, Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell has said that he believes “something happened” on the day of her disappearance, and that he is “100% convinced it’s not the river”.

In an effort to dispel “false information and rumours”, the Lancashire force’s senior investigating officer, detective superintendent Rebecca Smith, and assistant chief constable Peter Lawson gathered the press to share an unprecedented amount of detail about the distressing investigation.

Nicola Bulley, 45, who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27
Nicola Bulley, 45, who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27

Family handout via PA Media

Amid the surge of public interest, the police said:

1. So far, there is no evidence a crime was committed

2. So far, there is no evidence of third party involvement

3. Bulley was listed as ‘high-risk’ after going missing

This means the individual in question requires focused attention and significant police resources.

This grading was due to Bulley’s “vulnerabilities” – but police will not reveal these in detail out of respect for Bulley’s family, as it is “personal, private information”.

4. The main police theory is that she went into the river

But, police are not 100% sure. There are two other hypotheses still at play – that she left the area voluntarily and that there was third party involvement.

5. CCTV does not show her last movements

But there is operating CCTV over the gate at the field’s entrance. It shows that Bulley did not leave the area via this route.

6. It was normal for Willow (the dog) to be off the lead and for Bulley to be on a Teams call

The officers dispelled theories around Bulley’s pet. Detective superintendent Smith said: “A number of issues, inconsistencies have been raised in relation to Willow and her harness. It was really normal for Willow not to have her harness.”

The dog was found running between the bench and the gate, with the harness between the bench and the riverside.

7. Officer have consulted experts about the dog’s behaviour

“I can’t speak to the dog,” DS Smith said. “All we can say is that he was running backwards and forwards was still in the area where Nicola’s possessions were, and that’s all I can say.”

8. Bulley is not in the derelict house on the other side of the river

The house has been searched three times with the permission of the owner.

Police officers walk along a footpath in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, as they continue their search for Bulley
Police officers walk along a footpath in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, as they continue their search for Bulley

Peter Byrne – PA Images via Getty Images

9. A red van in the area where Bulley went missing was not suspicious

Detective Superintendent Smith said this is also a “persistent myth”.

10. Police are still trying to identify everyone who was in the area that morning

11. Digital inquiries are still underway

Detective Superintendent Smith said while there has been a lot of interest around Bulley’s Fitbit, it is not useful right now because the data had not been synced for a few days.

12. Further work is ongoing into her social media accounts

“This work might show Nicola as being online”, the DS said, adding: “We have control of [Bulley’s] phone, this will be the police that is doing these enquiries and nobody needs to be concerned or contact the incident room about this.”

13. Police haven’t been able to trace fishermen seen in area

But, they don’t see them as “suspicious” for carrying fishing rods or being there at that time of day, although they have appealed for these figures to come forward.

The DS added: “There was some suggestion one of these males might have been looking to cover his face.”

14. A glove has been recovered – but it is not Bulley’s

The officers hit out at TikTokers “playing their own private detective games” who allegedly found a glove in the area. They said it was not relevant to the investigation, but is in police possession.

Why the police wanted to have the press conference

DS Smith explained: “We are being inundated with false information and accusations and rumours which is distracting us from our work.”

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said they shared more info because they have today “shared more details than would normally be the case… to counter speculation that is distracting the investigation”.

They added that the public must respect the family’s privacy, and that the priority of the team was to give Bulley’s family the “answers they deserve”.

What next for the investigation?

Police have already looked through River Wyre, the nearby area and the river’s mouth when it gets to the sea.

Forty officers are looking through CCTV and dashcam footage, speaking to wintesses and looking through info from the public.

The scale of the operation is continuing but is under review, as it is currently at “peak resourcing and intensity”.

They are still calling for the public to submit dashcam footage from anyone driving through the area on the day of her disappearance.

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