Nicola Bulley: 'Key witness' comes forward after police appeal
A "key witness" in the search for Nicola Bulley has come forward following a police appeal to find a woman walking near the river where the mother-of-two had disappeared.
Lancashire Police had released an image on Saturday of a woman wearing a yellow coat and pushing a pram who they believe was in the area shortly before the 45-year-old disappeared on January 27.
In a statement, the force said the woman came forward "very quickly" after their appeal and stressed their enquiries to find Ms Bulley "are extensive and will include speaking to as many members of the public as possible".
The development came as friends and family questioned theories from police that the mother-of-two fell in the river Wyre while walking her dog.
Emma White, a friend of Ms Bulley, claimed police are trying to locate her last known movements from data on her Fitbit exercise tracker.
She told the Mail on Sunday: "The watch can receive data, but cannot connect to the internet. However, we hope they can somehow locate it using Bluetooth signals from people’s phones. We are clinging to hope.''
She added that the Fitbit has not "synced" with its servers since the Tuesday before Nicola’s disappearance.
As the search for Ms Bulley entered its second week, police investigating the disappearance are working on the theory that she did not leave the riverside area on Jan 27.
Louise Cunningham, Ms Bulley's sister, wrote a Facebook post on Friday responding to the latest police update.
"Off the back of the latest police media update, please can I add there is no evidence whatsoever that she has gone into the river, it’s just a theory," she said.
"Everyone needs to keep an open mind as not all CCTV and leads have been investigated fully. The police confirmed the case is far from over."
Ms Cunningham also shared a picture of Ms Bulley and partner Paul Ansell. Mr Ansell was tagged in the Facebook update.
Superintendent Sally Riley of Lancashire Police said inquiries so far had left a 10-minute window in which they cannot account for Ms Bulley's movements.
Ms Riley said: "We remain open to any inquiries that might lead us to question that, but at this time we understand that she was by the river.
"Our main working hypothesis, therefore, is that Nicola has sadly fallen into the river, that there is no third-party or criminal involvement and that this is not suspicious, but a tragic case of a missing person.
"This is particularly important because speculation otherwise can be really distressing for the family and for Nicola's children."
Ms Bulley, 45, a mortgage adviser from Inskip, Lancashire, vanished while walking her dog in the village of St Michael's on Wyre after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school last Friday.
The last confirmed sighting of her was at 9.10am and she had logged on to a work Teams call, which ended at 9.30am with her still logged on.
Her mobile phone and the lead and harness for her dog, springer spaniel Willow, were found on a bench close to the river at around 9.35am. Police say inquiries suggest her phone was on the bench at 9.20am.
Ms Riley also said: "It's now a week since Nicola went missing and her disappearance has understandably caused a huge amount of concern and upset in the local community, as well as being an absolutely awful time for her family.
"As a mum, I can't begin to imagine the suffering they are going through. We are supporting them as best we can and keeping them updated on our efforts to try and find Nicola."
She urged the public to look out along the river for the items of clothing that Ms Bulley was last seen wearing, including an ankle-length black quilted gilet jacket, a black Engelbert Strauss waist-length coat, tight-fitting black jeans, long green walking socks, ankle-length green Next wellies, a necklace and a pale blue Fitbit.
"It's really important that the public pay heed to those very specific clothing descriptions please, because factual sightings of those items would be very useful to us," Ms Riley added.
Members of the local community stood by the side of the road holding signs bearing Ms Bulley's photo, urging people to contact police with information.
Lancashire Police, who have launched a huge search operation, said that despite "unanswered questions", people should not "speculate or spread false rumours" about the disappearance.
Police said they are also appealing to "anyone who was driving down Blackpool Lane/Garstang Lane on the morning of Friday 27th Jan between the times of 9am and 10am who has dash cam footage on their vehicles".
They added: "Whilst you may not think that you hold any relevant information, it is really important that we gather as much footage as possible from the area that morning so we can review every piece meticulously to establish whether Nicola can be seen.
"We know from the footage we are currently reviewing, that this is a busy road, particularly at that time in the morning.
"There will be many people who were in that area at the time who may not think they can help, however we would urge you not to make that decision yourself and to come forward so we can have as much material as possible to assist the investigation.
"If you were in a car or cycling in the area and have footage, please get in contact.
"Anyone with information or footage is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For immediate sightings call 999."