Nicola Bulley: Police searching for missing dog walker appeal for 'key' witness

Police searching for Nicola Bulley have appealed for a "key" witness who they believe was in the area on the morning of the mother-of-two's disappearance.

The witness is a woman seen pushing a pram on the morning of Friday 27 January, when Ms Bulley went missing.

Officers believe Ms Bulley fell into the River Wyre while she was walking her dog.

However her family and friends have claimed there is "no evidence whatsoever" behind the police's theory.

The woman was seen walking in the village of St Michael's on Wyre at around 8.22am.

She is again seen walking just under 20 minutes later at 8.41am.

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A spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: "It is believed that the female in question may have walked along the river path during these times and so detectives want to speak to her and urge her to get in touch."

The force spokesperson added that it was crucial to gather as much footage as possible from the area on that morning to "review every piece meticulously" and 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," they added.

"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."

Crucial 10-minute window

Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen walking her dog on a footpath by the River Wyre.

Police are focusing their investigation on a crucial 10-minute window when the mortgage advisor's movements are unaccounted for between 9.10am and 9.20am.

A timeline pieced together by the force found she logged into a work conference call on Microsoft Teams at 9.01am.

Nine minutes later a witness who knows Ms Bulley said they saw her on the upper field walking her dog, Willow, which was off her lead.

This is the last confirmed sighting of her.

At 9.20am, police believe her phone was left on a bench by the river.

At 9.30am, the work conference call ended but she stayed connected - before her phone was found three minutes later on the bench by another dog walker.

We will 'never lose hope'

Ms Bulley's partner, Paul Ansell, vowed to "never lose hope" on Friday, a week after she "vanished into thin air".

He said he was focused on supporting their daughters, aged six and nine, but added: "I don't know how I am coping.

"I don't want to think about that."

Friends and family told Sky News correspondent Katerina Vittozzi it was "too soon for condolences", and say they are not ready to accept the police's theory that Ms Bulley fell into the river.

They have now set up a community search hub at the village tennis club where people are invited to take a map of the local area and try and help.

Specialists and divers from HM Coastguard, mountain rescue and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service have been deployed to assist the search, in addition to sniffer dogs, drones and police helicopters.

A team of detectives have been working to analyse telephone communication, house to house enquiries, CCTV, dashcam footage and other digital enquiries, Lancashire Police said.

Read more:
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'It's a very, very odd one'

Forensics search and rescue expert Peter Faulding told Sky News he has been left "mystified" by the "strange" circumstances of Ms Bulley's disappearance.

Mr Faulding, who has worked on hundreds of cases, said the tidal nature of the River Wye has presented difficulties for police during the search operation.

But he added: "I mean, the phone being found, a bench; normally, if someone would trip, they would have their phone in their hand.

"You know, the dog being dry; going after dogs, this is why a lot of people drown. They jump after their dogs.

"But the dog was found dry, so it clearly didn't go in the river, and that's what gets my suspicion about this case is it's a very, very odd one."