Nicola Bulley dive expert defends river search equipment that 'doesn't work on reeds'

Peter Faulding said he was not prepared to be the "fall guy" for the controversial investigation into the missing dog walker.

Peter Faulding (right) CEO and workers from private underwater search and recovery company, Specialist Group International, using a 18kHz side-scan sonar on the river in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, as they assist in the search for missing woman Nicola Bulley, 45, who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27, when she was spotted walking her dog on a footpath by the nearby River Wyre. Picture date: Monday February 6, 2023. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Peter Faulding (right) and workers from private underwater search and recovery company during their search for missing Nicola Bulley in the days following her disappearance. (Getty Images)

The expert diver whose team searched the river for missing woman Nicola Bulley has said he was not tasked with checking above the water line and insisted he is not prepared to be the "fall guy" for mistakes made during the search.

Bulley was last seen at around 9.10am on 27 January, taking her dog Willow for a walk after dropping her two children at school. Her phone was later found on a bench at 9.33am, and police have been working on the theory that she went into the water.

On Sunday, it emerged a body had been found in reeds close to where the dog walker went missing.

Police confirmed on Monday afternoon that they had formally identified the body as being Bulley.

Faulding has already faced a backlash over the search, despite commenting that his equipment does not work on reeds either above or below the waterline.

In a post to his company Specialist Group International's Facebook page, Faulding said: "Sadly, the discovery was not found in the river but in the reeds at the side of the river which was not part of our remit as the side scab sonar does not penetrate reeds above or below the water.

"A riverbank and wade search would be the only way to search this area and we were not involved or tasked with that search. The difference between these two search areas has caused a lot of confusion and unfair criticism towards myself and my team at Specialist Group International."

Watch: Nicola Bulley dive expert - I've become the fall guy after body was found

Last week, police revealed that Bulley had experienced struggles with alcohol and menopause. Faulding subsequently claimed that such information would have changed the way his dive team looked for her.

On Monday, he told Good Morning Britain that he was not prepared to be the "fall guy" following the discovery of a body over the weekend.

"There was no evidence Nicola went into the river at the bench, because she would have fallen into two foot of water" he explained.

"I believed she walked off somewhere and went into the river in some other way. There's been much speculation around this... there's always a fall guy and obviously i'm the one who's taking the fall for this, but I hand on heart, went to visit the family to help the family, as we do many other families each year for drowning victims."

Faulding has long maintained he does not believe the missing mortgage broker went into the river near to where her phone was found, and added in a statement following the discovery of a body that he would have found her if she was in the river at the time of the search.

"My previous comments saying that if Nicola was in the river I would have found her, stand still," he said.

PRESTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Yellow ribbons and daffodils adorn the bench where the phone of missing Nicola Bulley was found, on the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre on February 19, 2023 in Preston, England. Police recovered a body from the River Wyre today as the police investigation to find Nicola Bulley, 45, who disappeared while walking her dog along the banks of the River Wyre continues. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Yellow ribbons and daffodils adorn the bench where the phone of missing Nicola Bulley was found. Her body was discovered less than a mile away. (Getty Images)

Two dog walkers are understood to have made the discovery by the River Wyre, near to Rawcliffe Road, at 11.35am on Sunday. Police divers attended the scene and recovered the body.

Bulley's family have released several statements since her disappearance, with her partner, Paul Ansell, commenting that he would never give up the search for his wife because "she would never give up on us".

He told Sky News following Sunday's discovery that he was in "agony".

"No words right now, just agony," he said. "We’re all together, we have to be strong."

Latest news on the Nicola Bulley investigation

What happened to Nicola Bulley? Three theories on her disappearance (Yahoo News UK, 5-min read)

'Agony' for family as they await identification of body (Sky News, 2-min read)

Body found by dog walkers just a mile from where mother went missing (The Independent, 3-min read)