Police appeal to mother with pram who might have seen Nicola Bulley on her dog walk
Detectives looking for Nicola Bulley have released an image of a potential “key witness” who was seen pushing a pram on a river path near where the mother was last seen.
It came as the missing mortgage advisor’s sister questioned police claims that she may have fallen into the River Wyre while walking her dog.
Lancashire Police published the new image on Facebook on Saturday adding that the woman was seen on Garstang Road and Blackpool Road, St Michael’s, on the morning of January 27.
Police believe that the woman may have walked along the river path where Ms Bulley went missing between 8.22am and 8.41am.
“Officers leading the search for Nicola Bulley, who is missing in St Michael’s on Wyre, need to trace a key witness who they believe was in the area on the morning of Nicola’s disappearance,” the force said.
“She was seen walking from the direction of Allotment Lane towards The Grapes public house at approximately 8.22am and is seen again walking on Allotment Lane towards Garstang Road at 8.41am.
“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.
“We are also appealing to anyone who was driving down Blackpool Lane/Garstang Lane on the morning of Friday January 27 between the times of 9am and 10am who has dash cam footage on their vehicles to make contact.”
It came as family and friends of Nicola Bulley say there is “no evidence whatsoever” behind police claims that she may have fallen into the river and got bogged down with heavy clothing.
Superintendent Sally Riley gave an update on Friday, a week after Ms Bulley vanished at St Michael on Wyre, near Preston, Lancashire.
After analysing Ring doorbell camera footage, car dash cam footage and CCTV of the river path’s exits, police do not believe she left the riverside on January 27.
“Our main working hypothesis is that Nicola has suddenly fallen into the river, that there’s no third-party or criminal involvement, and that this is not suspicious but a tragic case of a missing person,” Supt Riley said.
No evidence of Ms Bulley’s whereabouts has yet been found, such as her clothing, the officer added.
However, in a Facebook post, Ms Bulley’s sister, Louise Cunningham, urged people to “keep an open mind” as there is “no evidence whatsoever” that the dog walker fell in the river.
“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 Bulley’s friend, Emma White, also cast doubt on the police theory, telling Sky News it was based on “limited information”.
“When we are talking about a life we can’t base it on a hypothesis – surely we need this factual evidence,” she said.
“That’s what the family and all of us are holding on to – that we are sadly no further on than last Friday.
“We still have no evidence, and that’s why we’re out together in force.
“You don’t base life on a hypothesis.”
Giving an update of the timeline before Ms Bulley, 45, went missing, Supt Riley said there is just a 10-minute window during which police cannot account for her movements.
The mortgage adviser from Inskip, Lancashire, vanished after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school.
She sent an email to her boss and was on a Teams call while walking her springer spaniel Willow at around 9am.
“All of this was ordinary behaviour”, Supt Riley told a press conference. “It was not out of the ordinary, nothing happened during those calls.”
Police have established the last confirmed sighting of Ms Bulley with her dog was at 9.10am when she had let Willow off the lead to run around some fields.
Evidence recovered from Ms Bulley’s phone shows it located on a bench overlooking the river at 9.20am.
At 9.30am the Teams meeting ended with Ms Bulley still connected and at 9.33am a fellow dog walker found Willow unattended and raised the alarm.
Police believe Ms Bulley could have entered the water accidentally at some point between 9.10am and 9.20am.
Supt Riley added that officers are confident Ms Bulley did not leave the area where she was last seen because all exits were either locked or have been ruled out by CCTV and dash cam inquiries.
Police are now searching a nine-mile stretch of the River Wyre from the village all the way to the sea at Fleetwood, speaking to specialists to gain further knowledge about the depth of the river and its currents. Underwater divers and drones have been deployed.
Earlier, Ms Bulley’s partner, Paul Ansell, said yesterday that he “cannot get his head around” Ms Bulley’s disappearance but added that his focus was on staying strong for their two daughters.
“Every single scenario comes to a brick wall. Every single one of them,” Mr Ansell told reporters at the scene of his partner’s disappearance.
“We’re never, ever going to lose hope, of course we’re not, but it is as though she has vanished into thin air. It’s just insane.”