It has been more than three weeks since mother-of-two Nicola Bulley vanished without a trace, in a mystery that has baffled Britain and perplexed police.
The 45-year-old had been walking her dog Willow on January 27 when she disappeared in the tiny Lancashire village of St Michael’s on Wyre.
Detectives’ main hypothesis is that Ms Bulley slipped into the River Wyre, with police insisting there is ‘no evidence’ to suggest any foul play.
But despite exhaustive searches of the waterway, coast and sea by police, investigators have had no success in finding the missing mortgage advisor.
Police chiefs say they have been ‘significantly distracted’ by social media sleuths, who have pestered them with useless leads and offended the close-knit community of St Michael’s by taking selfies at the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found.
How to use the interactive map: Click on the list of locations on the right-hand-side to ‘fly to the scene’.
Or scroll from location to location and click on markers on the map to discover more information about the search for Nicola.
Mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, 45, has been missing now for more than three weeks. She left her home in Inskip and dropped off her children at school in St Michael’s on Wyre before going for a walk in the village on January 27
Police were pictured surveying the River Wyre at the Shard Bridge in the village of Hambledon on Friday as they continued their search for the missing mother of two, who vanished walking her dog, Willow
Police teams, with sniffer dogs, were spotted on Friday searching Hambledon, close to where Ms Bulley disappeared on January 27
But investigators have come under fire for how they have handled the case, after disclosing Ms Bulley’s health issues in an unusual move that has seen them being read the riot act by Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Now. as the mystery enters its fourth week, with the hint that the huge hunt could soon be scaled down, MailOnline has plotted an interactive map showing all the areas and key moments in the investigation so far.
The latest riverbank search
As the mystery surrounding Nicola’s disappearance marked its third anniversary, a large police presence was seen in a village almost seven miles away from where she was last seen alive.
Police, with sniffer dogs and high-powered binoculars, were seen patrolling the banks of the River Wyre in Hambledon, which has a small population of about 2,700 people.
The community is east of St Michael’s on Wyre and about a mile from the entrance to Morecambe Bay, where police have previously been seen.
Officers were seen searching the banks of the river on Friday afternoon and scanning it with binoculars from the Shard Bridge.
Search teams were also pictured patrolling through the village and observing close to the Shard Riverside Inn.
Search teams, accompanied by sniffer dogs, spent Friday tirelessly checking the banks of the River Wyre in Hambledon, which is about seven miles to the west of where Nicola was last seen
Nicola’s phone was the first clue that was discovered. It had been left on a bench near the river and was found by a dog walker at 9.33am on January 27.
The device was spotted by a man called Ron, who admitted on Friday that he thought something was ‘not right’ when he saw the abandoned mobile.
Speaking for the first time on the three-week anniversary of Nicola’s disappearance, Ron said he initially thought ‘somebody had gone to the toilet’ when he saw the phone.
Ron, who found Nicola’s phone on the day she vanished, thought something was ‘not right’ when he spotted it abandoned on a bench. He was speaking to Sky News on Friday, three weeks after Ms Bully vanished from St Michael’s on Wyre
‘I got to about this red brick building here and I thought “this is not right”,’ Ron told Sky News as presenter Kay Burley recreated the walk Ms Bulley took on the morning she vanished.
‘Then it was just a progression of things happening, you know. Because of the wallpaper on the phone we found out who the couple were, and the school was contacted and [her partner] Paul arrived.’
The phone’s discovery came 40 minutes after Ms Bulley sent an email to her boss. At 8.57am, police say the mother-of-two texted a friend about setting up a playdate for her children before she logged on to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am.
Police say she was seen by a witness, holding her phone at 9.10am – which was the last known sighting of Ms Bulley. Data analysis shows the phone was back in the area of the bench at 9.20am, with her Teams call ending 10 minutes later.
This is the bench where, on the morning of January 27, Nicola Bulley’s phone and her dog’s lead, were found. She has not been seen since 9.10am of that Friday
Ms Bulley’s distraught partner attempted to remain composed as he told the media he was trying to protect his daughters
The bench where Nicola’s phone and dog lead were found has become a key part of the perplexing disappearance of Ms Bulley.
A female dog walker spotted the items on the bench at 9.33am – about 23 minutes after the last known sighting of Nicola in the field nearby.
Although keeping all avenues of enquiry open, Lancashire Police has insisted there is no evidence of foul play – and they suspect the 45-year-old may have slipped into the River Wyre.
The bench was visited by Nicola’s partner, Paul Ansell. And the tree behind it has been plastered with missing person’s posters.
But the site has also been visited by arm chair detectives. And true crime ‘tourists’ have ignited outrage locally, by flocking to the scene to pose for selfies.
Police armed with binoculars scan the banks of the River Wyre from the Shard Bridge, in Hambledon, on Friday as the hunt for the missing mother marked its third week
The bench where Nicola’s mobile phone was last seen when she vanished on January 27 has remained a key part of the case which has perplexed police and the British public
Despite the phone and lead being found on it, Lancashire Police did not seize the bench for forensic analysis – which has drawn criticism from a former Detective Chief Inspector.
Martyn Underhill, who served with the Met and Sussex Police, said the seat should have been ‘completely and utterly contained’ and that key evidence could have been lost.
‘That bench on that river in my view should have gone to a forensic laboratory,’ he told The Times. ‘If Nicola had been attacked there could be blood spatterings on it. Sadly it’s still in situ. It is questionable to put it bluntly.’
The 10-minute gap
Police have highlighted a crucial 10-minute gap which, if answered, could finally unravel the mystery of Nicola Bulley’s disappearance.
The gap was between 9.10am and 9.20am. The earlier time was when Ms Bulley was last seen before her disappearance.
She was spotted walking her dog, Willow, in Upper Field by someone who knew her.
Ten minutes later, police say her phone had returned to the area of the bench, about 700ft east of where she was spotted, before being found at 9.33am.
Willow the dog
Willow the dog, pictured with Nicola, was found pacing near the bench where the missing mother’s phone was discovered. Ms Bulley often snapped pictures of her walk with the spaniel
During a press conference on Wednesday, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said unprecedented police resources had been devoted to trying to find Nicola – but he also warned that searches for the missing mother could soon be scaled down. Pictured are officers and a sniffer dog on Friday
Nicola’s brown and white spaniel Willow was found at 9.33am having been spotted pacing close to the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone had been left.
The animal was completely dry and was pacing between the bench and kissing gate when it was found by a dog walker.
Police continue to work under the hypothesis Ms Bulley slipped into the river, possibly while trying to help her dog, and drowned.
But a picture revealed earlier this month appeared to show Willow happily swimming in the same river – implying she would not have been concerned if he had entered the water.
The last sighting of Nicola
The last known sighting of Nicola was at 9.10am on January 27.
A witness saw her on the upper field walking the family dog, Willow.
Nicola Bulley vanished two weeks ago while walking her dog near the River Wyre in Lancashire
Police officers walk along a footpath in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on Sunday as they continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police gives a press conference at Lancashire Police HQ on February 15
This has been corroborated by police. It is understood Ms Bulley also had her phone in her hand, with police confirming she had been dialled in to a work meeting on Microsoft Teams.
The mother was walking slowly along the muddy pathway near the riverside.
The dog harness
Ms Bulley adored her dog Willow and would take her for a walk on the same route each day.
When the animal was found on its own on the river pathway, much was made by conspiracy theorists on why the harness was on the floor.
Some had suggested there could have been a dognapping gone wrong.
The police have insisted there is nothing suspicious about the lead.
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith addressed it, by disclosing: ‘It was really normal not for Willow to have her harness on in the field.’
Pictures of the pet that Ms Bulley shared on exercise app Strava show it regularly wore a harness when it was outside the house
Anyone with information or footage is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For immediate sightings, call 999
Mr Ansell tried to gently break the news of her disappearance to their two daughters, who are now confused and continuing to ask their grandparents when she is coming home
Despite no signs of Nicola having fallen into the River Wyre, with no footprints or disturbed mud in the area, police said there was ‘no evidence’ of foul play or ‘anything suspicious about her disappearance or any third-party involvement.’
Shortly after her disappearance, police had told of their theory that the mother-of-two had potentially slipped into the waters, while trying to help her dog or retrieve her ball.
During a Lancashire Police conference on Wednesday, Det Supt Smith maintained that position, stating that detectives’ main ‘hypothesis’ remained that Ms Bulley had fallen into the river.
However, a series of photos taken by Nicola has left many questioning the theory.
The images taken on July 5, 2022, show Willow happily swimming in the River Wyre with a tennis ball in her mouth. A second selfie snap shows Nicola with Willow on the banks of the same river. They were posted onto social media with the caption: ‘A quick morning walk before a busy day ahead! Willow living her best life!’
Nicola left her home in Inskip at 8.20am, accompanied by her her two girls, aged nine and six, and dog, Willow. It is almost four miles south of St Michael’s on Wyre, where Nicola’s two girls go to school.
The 45-year-old was captured on CCTV wearing a black Engelbert Strauss coat, tight black jeans and ankle-length green wellington boots from Next.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said they were assessing the information to determine whether an investigation would be necessary over the contact officers had with the missing mother-of-two on January 10. Pictured: Officers in St Michael’s on Wyre on Thursday
Police officers are seen searching the Wyre river bank at Wardley Yacht Marina on Thursday
The plan was for her to drop the children off at school and walk her dog, WIllow, on a regular 30-minute route, which is claimed she had walked ‘thousands of times’ in the past.
But in a bombshell revelation, Lancashire Police on Wednesday revealed officers had visited the home 17 days before Nicola vanished.
It came after the force took the unusual move of describing Ms Bulley’s health, saying the 45-year-old had a problem with alcohol as a result of ‘ongoing struggles with the menopause’.
Nicola’s children’s school
Nicola arrived at her children’s school, St Michael’s on Wyre Church of England School, at 8.40am, where she spoke briefly to another parent.
Leaving her car at the primary, the 45-year-old mother took her dog Willow and walked out onto Blackpool Lane to begin a normal 30-minute trek.
The river path Nicola took
Lancashire Police said that Nicola was immediately graded as ‘high-risk’ due to ‘specific vulnerabilities’
Nicola walked north along Blackpool Lane before turning east onto a pathway that runs alongside the River Wyre.
The footpath is narrow and has a wooden fence, about 4ft high, blocking access to the river. It is a popular route for walkers and is well-known by locals in St Michael’s.
It takes approximately eight minutes to walk from St Michael’s school to the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found.
But her family say Nicola was not in the habit of walking by the River when she went out for a stroll with Willow – another unanswered question in the mystery surrounding her disappearance.
The dog walker she met in the lower field
After dropping off her two children at school. Nicola walked east along the towpath that follows the River Wyre to a small field at about 8.43am.
Following a brief stroll, Nicola reached the field where police say she encountered another dog walker, at about 8.50am.
The dog-walker – somebody who knew Nicola – saw her strolling around the lower field. Their two dogs interacted briefly before the witness left the field via the river path, police said.
Message to friend at 8.59am
It was one of the final conversations Nicola held before she vanished.
At 8.59am, 34 minutes before her phone was found abandoned on a bench, Ms Bulley had sent a text to one of her friends, trying to set up a playdate for their children.
Describing the brief conversation, Rebecca Smith, the detective superintendent leading the inquiry, said: ‘She booked a playdate, 8.57, she sent a text message to a friend whose mortgage she had just recently signed off on to arrange for the girls to go for tea this week.’
The Microsoft Teams meeting
Nicola logged into a Microsoft Teams meeting at 9.01am, shortly after texting a friend and emailing her boss.
During the call, Nicola’s microphone and camera were switched off. Her phone was later found on a bench, 32 minutes later, by a dog walker, still logged into the conference call.
Pictured: A police officer guarding the entrance to the path where Ms Bulley was last seen
Police have issued this handout illustrating the route Ms Bulley took
Since Ms Bulley vanished, huge public and media interest has resulted in what police described as ‘false information, accusations and rumours’ and an ‘unprecedented’ search of both the River Wyre, downstream to Morecambe Bay and miles of neighbouring farmland
During a press conference on Wednesday, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, who is leading the probe, claimed there had been a lot of ‘speculation’ over the work call.
The senior officer insisted the meeting was a regular occurence and said it was normal that Nicola’s microphone and video were off – as it was more of an informative call.
She added detectives had ‘thoroughly’ looked into the possibility of Nicola’s colleagues, who were on a Microsoft Teams call with her, knowing what happened, which is ‘not the case’.
Nicola spotted on Upper Field at 9.10am
A witness who knows Nicola spotted her and her dog Willow on the Upper Field area, during her walk around the River Wyre.
During this time Nicola was still logged on to her MS Teams work call, which concluded at around 9.30am.
Nicola’s Strava running route
Her Strava account reveals it’s a route she took often and knew well, generally completing the loop in about 30 minutes
Nicola’s Strava account revealed the route she walked her dog Willow on the day she vanished was one she knew well, having taken it countless times before.
The mother-of-two would often share photos on social media of Willow frolicking in the field and in the river.
On average, it’d take her about 30 minutes to complete the 1.6-mile loop and return to her car, which her family say she parked in the same spot about ‘1000 times over’ through the years.
One theory being looked at by detectives is that Nicola may have left the rural towpath from an entrance not covered by CCTV
More officers seen by the river on Thursday as they search for missing Ms Bulley along the towpath and riverside route Nicola took on the day she vanished
Police have been using drones as they look to widen out their search for Nicola Bulley
The bench where Nicola’s phone stands feet away from the river, which has been extensively searched by police and a private divers
Police have issued an urgent appeal for a mother wearing a yellow rain jacket in their ongoing search for missing mother Nicola Bulley
The pathway runs alongside the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre. But detectives fear the missing mother could have vanished from a point on the path without any camera coverage, saying this could have been a ‘possibility’.
Detectives have been confident mortgage adviser Ms Bulley never left the rural stretch of fields surrounding the river, after review available nearby CCTV.
Woman in the yellow coat pushing a pram
In the wake of her disappearance, police appealed to find a someone they believed may have been a ‘key witness’.
The witness was a woman wearing a yellow coat, pushing a pram. She had been spotted walking along Garstrang Road and Blackpool Road – part of the route Nicola is known to have taken.
She was seen twice, first at about 8.22am heading in the direction of Allotment Lane, towards the Grapes pub, and then again at 8.41am – roughly the time Nicola started her walk.
The woman was successfully tracked down by police but claimed she had not seen Ms Bulley.
The ‘tatty’ red van
The last pictures of Ms Bulley were captured on her Ring doorbell on Friday January 27. Her Mercedes is at the top of the photo
Two men who appeared to be hiding their faces were spotted near Nicola Bulley’s walking route the day before she went missing, it has been reported
Police say they have been inundated with leads from the public. Among them included a report of a ‘tatty red van’ having been spotted close to where Ms Bulley disappeared.
On Wednesday, detectives said they were continuing their hunt for the vehicle but insisted there was ‘nothing to suggest this was anything other than one of many hundreds of vehicles in the area that morning’.
Two people reported seeing a suspicious red in Hall Lane near to the riverbank where Ms Bulley’s phone and dog Willow were found.
In a statement, police later added: ‘We are aware of reports in the media about a red van being reported to us and we would like to stress that while this has been reported to us and we are making efforts to identify the owner at this time there is nothing to suggest this was anything other than one of many hundreds of vehicles in the area that morning.’
The lady in red
MailOnline can reveal the 67-year-old woman in the red coat told police she did not see Ms Bulley during her walk
Police issued a public appeal for a woman wearing a red coat walking her dog at around 8.50am on the morning of Nicola’s disappearance. She was captured on CCTV near the River Wyre.
The woman was later identified as 67-year-old Christine Bowman. She told police she did not see Ms Bulley during her walk with her own dog, Snowflake.
Ms Bowman said she was baffled by the appeal to track her down because she had already spoken to officers on the day Ms Bulley disappeared – and told them she didn’t know anything’.
‘Broken’ CCTV cameras
In a post on Facebook, one of Nicola’s friends claimed CCTV cameras at a caravan park – near to where the mother-of-two was last seen – had been ‘broken’ on the day Ms Bulley vanished.
The search for Nicola Bulley (pictured) has been dogged by unfounded theories spread online by true crime cranks, conspiracy theorists and social media trolls
Officers were seen in lines walking close to the river bank on both sides during the early phase of the investigation into Ms Bulley’s disappearance
In a post on Facebook Tilly Ann, one of the 45-year-old’s pals, wrote: ‘There’s CCTV at the back of the caravan park. The only camera that isn’t working is the one that would have seen everything.’
However, in a police statement on Wednesday, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith – who is heading up the investigation – said: ‘There has been some mention of CCTV specifically at the caravan site that hasn’t been working and that that’s suspicious itself.
‘That’s not the case. We have been helped and assisted beyond all belief by the caravan owners in this.
‘The whole community wants to find Nicola and give the family the answers they deserve.’
The ‘stained’ glove
A ‘stained’ glove was handed investigators after being found by TikTok sleuths on February 7.
The dark grey item of clothing was unearthed in a field near the River Wyre, close to where Ms Bulley was walking her dog Willow when she vanished.
Footage of its discovery was shared exclusively with MailOnline, with the cameraman claiming: ‘It looks like there’s blood on it.’
But during a press conference, D Rebecca Smith said: ‘A glove has been recovered that is not believed to be relevant to the investigation, it is not Nicola’s but we have got that in our possession.’
Two suspicious fishermen
There have been widespread reports about a pair of fisherman who were said to have been acting strangely when Ms Bulley went missing.
The men were described by an anonymous witness as trying to hide their faces with ‘dark clothing’ and ‘hoods or hats’ while also carrying fishing rods.
The witness said the men were acting ‘very strange’ and the sighting made him feel ‘uneasy’.
Nicola went missing 13 days ago and was last seen on the bank of the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre with police still unclear about what has happened to her
This is the footpath that police believe Nicola might have walked, alongside the River Wyre, on the morning she vanished. Police are pictured patrolling it on February 13
On Wednesday, Det Supt Smith admitted she had not found the men in question but appeared to make fun of the idea they could have been involved in wrongdoing.
She said: ‘There has also been mention of a number of fisherman who were seen that morning who again were described as suspicious.
‘I myself don’t find it suspicious that fisherman would be in the area of a river that morning or carrying fishing roads.
‘But there was some suggestion one of these men might have been covering their face. We have made a number of appeals for these fishermen to come forward.’
The caravan park
Wyreside Farm Park Caravan Site is believed to be one of several CCTV ‘blind spots’ near to where Nicola Bulley disappeared
An aerial view shows the caravan park shows how close it is to both the river and the path that runs alongside it
Police spent an hour at Wyreside Farm Park Caravan Site on Monday, February 13. The site is near where Nicola went missing. Lancashire Police said at the time that officers were in the area as part of ongoing reassurance patrols.
The park is said to be one of a number of CCTV blindspots near the route Nicola was walking.
A friend, named Tilly-Ann, previously wrote in a Facebook post supported by the missing mother-of-two’s family: ‘There’s CCTV at the back of the caravan park. The only camera that isn’t working is the one that would have seen everything.’
Staff at the caravan park revealed this camera that ‘could see everything’ in fact belonged to a nearby property.
However, footage from one of their cameras that could ‘see traffic coming down the lane’ had been handed to police, who ‘spent hours’ looking at it.
The day following their visit, police are said to have warned staff at the caravan park to lock their doors over fears vigilante detectives were roaming the area, filming through the windows of villagers’ homes.
The abandoned House near river
A drone photo from February 1, when police searched an ‘abandoned’ old house and the surrounding areas
A large empty property located near where Ms Bulley’s phone and dog’s harness were found has fascinated the public.
It has been pictured online in viral posts and people have been repeatedly claiming it has not been looked through.
At one point, police are said to have handed a dispersal order to a group of men who had travelled 50 miles from the Liverpool area to St Michael’s on Wyre to try and search it.
On Wednesday, Det Supt Smith disclosed that in fact the house had been carefully poured over by officers.
She revealed: ‘The derelict house which is across the other side of the river has been searched three times, with the permission of the owner.
‘Nicola is not in there.’
An aerial image shows Blackpool Road, where Nicola walked on her way to the fields where she vanished. The road leads onto Garstang Road, a key thoroughfare through the village of St Michael’s on Wyre
Garstang Road runs through the heart of the village of St Michael’s on Wyre and has been a crucial part of the police investigation into Nicola’s disappearance.
Detectives believe Ms Bulley walked her pet spaniel Willow from her children’s school, out onto Blackpool Road before then crossing onto the rural towpath that follows the River Wyre.
This pathway has a number of exits – including some that lead onto Garstang Road. And the upper field area, which backs onto the road, is where Nicola was last seen.
Lancashire Police has appealed to motorists or cyclists with dash or helmet cameras, who may have been travelling on the road the morning Nicola vanished, to come forward.
Nicola’s partner visits the scene
Nicola’s devastated partner Paul Ansell insisted he was trying to remain strong for their two daughters, when he visited the scene close to where Ms Bulley was last seen.
Paul Ansell, 44, pictured with diving expert Peter Faulding who told the anxious father ‘she’s not here’, during a third extensive day of searching along the River Wyre in Lancashire
The pair were joined by a senior detective and a friend of Nicola, who listened attentively as Mr Faulding explained how the water where police believe the 45-year-old drowned was particularly shallow
Louise Cunningham (centre), the sister of missing Nicola Bulley, has also visited the scene where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found on a bench next to the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre on February 14
Speaking to broadcasters at the site, he said: ‘My whole focus is my two girls, just staying as strong as I can for them.
‘I’m scared that if I put focus into anything else it’s going to take my focus off that. Just hoping to goodness that anything comes out from the interview yesterday no matter how tiny.’
Mr Ansell visited the scene again, less than a week later, this time accompanied by diving expert Paul Faulding, who had been involved in the search of the River Wyre.
People taking selfies at the bench
People have flocked from across the country to visit the tiny village of St Michael’s on Wyre.
But the macabre true crime ‘tourists’ have been slammed by both the police and the local community after it emerged some were taking selfies on the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found.
There have even been reports of people snapping pictures with missing person posters, in a move that outraged the area’s parish council chairman, Giles Phillips, who lashed out saying: ‘This is not a spectator sport.’
St Michael’s Garage
Detectives visited the Tateoil garage searching for CCTV that might have captured a critical clue on the morning Ms Bulley disappeared
Detectives visited the Tateoil petrol station in Rawcliffe Road to ask for CCTV from around the time of Nicola’s disappearance.
The arrival of investigators at the garage followed a witness claim that two suspicious-looking men had been seen near Nicola’s dog-walking route 24 hours before she went missing.
The witness is said to have seen the men by the local church and by a bridge close to Ms Bulley’s route on January 26.
They reportedly saw one of the individuals near a bridge at a footpath used regularly by the missing mother the following day.
There are several blindspots in the area. The first (right) is on a pathway that is close to where Nicola was last seen. It heads towards Garstang Road but is not covered by CCTV. While the second is a riverside path leading from the Wyreside Farm Caravan Park (left circle)
There are a number of blind spots that have made it trickier to pin down Nicola’s movements on the morning she vanished.
The first blind spot is on a pathway that is close to where Nicola was last seen. It heads towards Garstang Road but is not covered by CCTV.
While the second is a riverside path leading from the Wyreside Farm Caravan Park through to the A586, or Garstang Road.
A camera at a house close to the path is also understood to have not been working at the time, but did not cover the exit regardless.
Boat search of sea
Police have been using boats to hunt through the river and sea as officers expanded their efforts to track down the missing mother
Police on the banks of the River Wyre as the search for Ms Bulley continues
Police boats began trawling Morecambe Bay on February 8, after a team of expert divers abandoned their operation in the River Wyre.
Lancashire Police and a private diving company both conducted extensive searches along the River Wyre, but found no trace of the missing mortgage adviser.
Two police boats, accompanied by specialist divers, were spotted off Morecambe Bay, around 20 miles from where Nicola was last seen, with police suggesting finding her ‘in the open sea becomes more of a possibility’.
A third vessel, a large orange lifeboat, was also seen patrolling the bay, with a team of rescue workers on board.
The diving expert
Father-of-three Peter Faulding was called in to support the search effort to find Ms Bulley,
He has carried out hundreds of river hunts and rescue operations, as an underwater forensic diver, supporting both the police and National Crime Agency.
The 60-year-old and his team spent three days meticulously combing the River Wyre for clues, using divers and sonars.
He has also supported Nicola’s partner, Paul Ansell, taking the anxious father to Ms Bulley’s last known position.
The body of 16-year-old boy
In 1978, the body of a teenager thrown from a motorbike and off a bridge – upstream from where Nicola Bulley was last seen – was found two months later close to the mouth of the river.
The tragic accident happened outside the village of Woodplumpton, near Preston, on or around January 27, 1978 – 45 years to the day before Ms Bulley vanished.
Roger Jones, 16, died after being thrown from a motorbike and into the River Wyre
Roger Jones, 16, was a pillion passenger on a friend’s motorbike when the rider lost control on a narrow bridge. The teen was thrown into Barton Brook, which eventually flows into the River Wyre less than a mile upstream of the bench where Ms Bulley’s spaniel Willow and mobile phone were found.
Despite a huge search involving police divers and dog handlers, no trace of the schoolboy was found until his body washed up on a sandbank at low tide.
It had floated around seven miles downstream from St Michael’s-on-Wyre, where Ms Bulley was last seen. This is significant as it shows bodies in the river can be found miles away from where they entered the tidal waterway.
High tech sonar used in river search
Divers spent days hunting through the River Wyre in an effort to try and find the missing mother-of-two
A £55,000 sonar is among the hi-tech kit that has been deployed in the hunt for Nicola Bulley.
The high-spec search device was used by divers from Specialist Group International (SGI), which has been aiding in the search for the missing mother.
Surrey-based SGI used the kit to scan the waterways of St Michael’s on Wyre village in Lancashire.
The device was towed beside an inflatable dinghy that carries a small team of staff. It sends out high-frequency pulses that help to map large areas of a seafloor or a riverbed to detect any object at the bottom.
Footmarks by riverbed
Despite spending days searching through the river, no evidence that the 45-year-old missing mother entered it has been found
Paul Ansell told Sky News: ‘My whole focus is my two girls. Just staying as strong as I can for them. I’m scared that if I put focus into anything else it’s going to take my focus off that’
Investigators working under the hypothesis that Nicola slipped into the River Wyre have yet to find any evidence to back this claim up, a retired detective said.
Mick Neville, a former Scotlyard detective, claimed that had the 45-year-old mother fallen or slipped into the Lancashire waterway, there would have been clear marks on the riverbank showing this.
The view is echoed by Peter Faulding, an underwater forensic diver whose private team has carried out sweeps of the river.
He claimed Ms Bulley could have ‘easily’ stood up in the 2ft deep flowing waters, with rocks on the riverbed providing a stable base.
Police staged a press conference on Wednesday, February 15 as the hunt for Ms Bulley approached the third week. Pictured: Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson (left) and Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police
Police are said to be trying to trace data from Nicola Bulley’s Fitbit (pictured on her right arm)
Nicola had been into her exercise and fitness and like many others worn a Fitbit bracelet gadget.
Former detectives had suggested the device could be key into helping locate where she could be.
But police said the hi-tech wearable could not assist them in tracking down the missing person, as it ‘wasn’t synched’ on the day she vanished.
Police search coast
As the hunt for Nicola continued to expand further afield from St Michael’s on Wyre, police moved search teams to the coast.
Mounted police were spotted patrolling coastal pathways on horseback in Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire.
Mounted police in Knott End-on-Sea are pictured on Monday as they take part in the search for missing Nicola Bulley
Officers carry out patrols close to where Ms Bulley was last seen
Officers go door-to door in the village
Police have been quizzing residents and businesses, while appealing for doorbell and CCTV footage in a hope to find the crucial clue that could unlock the mystery of the missing mother.
But Lancashire Police faced backlash for ‘wasting’ the first 24 hours of the investigation by not carrying out door-to-door inquiries and jumping to the conclusion Nicola fell into the river.
Speaking to Channel 5 earlier this month, Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell said he is convinced she never went in the river and called for police to re-focus on searching the nearby land, including door-to-door searches.
On Monday, police were seen going door-to-door at the Wyreside Farm Park caravan site, yards from where the mother of two went missing on Jan 27.
Friends on road with signs
Friends of Ms Bulley have taken to the streets of St Michael’s on Wyre, holding posters with her face on them
The friends gathered on Friday, February 10 – the two wee anniversary of the day Nicola vanished
A candlelight vigil was also staged at St Michael’s Church. Pictured is an image of Nicola and her partner Paul, illuminated by the flickering flame of a candle
Nicola’s devastated friends have been doing whatever they can to help raise the profile of the search for the missing mother.
In a series of poignant displays, pals lined the streets of St Michael’s on Wyre, holding placards with Nicola’s face on, urging witnesses to come forward.
They also staged a candlelight vigil in the village and have provided crucial support to Ms Bulley’s heartbroken family.
Emma White is among Ms Bulley’s loved-ones to have taken part in the roadside appeals and said Nicola’s two children were growing increasingly concerned and confused by their mother’s absence.
She said: ‘The little girl is saying “Is my mummy famous?” I didn’t quite know how to answer that myself… for the wrong reasons.’
Messages of hope tied to the bridge
Friends and worried villagers have been leaving emotional notes on the iron bridge that leads onto the river pathway Nicola is known to have walked on the morning she vanished
Friends and family tied ribbons to a footbridge over the River Wyre, including one from partner Paul Ansell following Nicola Bulley’s disappearance
People have been leaving messages of hope on the bridge close to where Nicola Bulley disappeared.
Written on yellow love hearts, the hand-written notes have been tied on the iron bridge that crosses the River Wyre in Lancashire.
Dozens have so far appeared. Among the tributes is one from the Peters family, which read: ‘We send our hope and prayers. Come home Nicola. Love, the Peters xxx.’
Mercedes key ring
On February 12, as the search for Nicola extended into its third week, the public were urged to look out for the missing mother’s car keys.
The appeal came from Nicola’s partner, Paul Ansell, and her close friend, Charlotte Drake.
Timeline: Mystery of mother who vanished while walking her dog
8.43am – Nicola Bulley walked along the path by the River Wyre, having dropped her two children off at school
8:50am (approximately) – A dog-walker – somebody who knows Nicola – saw her walking around the lower field with her dog. Their two dogs interacted briefly before the witness left the field via the river path
8.53am – She sent an email to her boss
8.57am – She sent a text to a friend to organise a playdate
9.01am – She logged into a Teams call
9.10am (approximately) – A witness – somebody who knows Nicola – saw her on the upper field walking her dog, Willow. Work is ongoing to establish exactly what time this was.
9.30am – The Teams call ended but Nicola stayed logged on
9.35am (approximately) – Nicola’s mobile phone and Willow were found at a bench by the river by another dog-walker. The dog’s harness was found on a bench along with her phone, which is still connected to a work conference call. The dog’s lead was on the floor.
10.15am – The alarm is raised around an hour later by a walker who finds her springer spaniel Willow running lose.
Nicola’s keys are still missing. They are ‘a Mercedes key with a couple of Mercedes keyrings on it, one black and one blue, a round wooden key ring with paw prints on it, and a couple of normal keys,’ said Paul.
‘They were definitely on Nikki at the time, a huge bunch of keys, a Mercedes keyring with paw prints which she would have put in her coat pocket,’ he added.
Dozens of worried villagers, desperate to do what they could to help find Nicola, were mobilised following a community meeting.
The call to arms was launched at St Michael’s on Wyre’s village hall on Sunday, January 29 – two days after Ms Bulley vanished.
About 100 villagers, including Nicola’s partner Paul, answered the plea and joined two organised searches in the morning and afternoon.
The Parish Church of St Michaels on Wyre
Two ‘suspicious’ men were seen in the vicinity of the local church the day before Nicola’s appearance.
At their press conference on Wednesday, police threw doubt on claims these men had anything to do the disappearance of the mother-of-two.
The churchyard was also visited by so-called ‘ghosthunters’ who angered locals by ‘calling out to spirits’ in a bid for answers.
The location of the police press conference
Detectives running the investigation into Nicola’s disappearance stepped out in front of the media on Wednesday to clear up speculation surrounding the mystery.
The news event was staged at Hutton Police HQ, about 14 miles south of St Michael’s on Wyre.
Man with white fluffy dog
On January 31, Lancashire police spoke with a potential witness, a man who had been walking a small white fluffy dog near the River Wyre at the time of Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Skippool Creek car park
Officers taped off Skippool Creek car park by the River Wyre in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire on February 3.
Investigators wearing white forensic suits were seen carrying away bags of evidence from the site, which was nine miles downstream from where Nicola Bulley went missing.
Officers taped off Skippool Creek car park by the River Wyre in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, with investigators wearing white forensic suits seen carrying away bags of evidence
Speaking later, a spokesman from Lancashire Police confirmed the operation was part of an inquiry relating to a suspicious motor. It is understood it was not related to Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
River pumping station
On February 15, police were seen searching a pumping station near the River Wyre.
Police have said nothing more about their brief visit to the site, which is near Nicola’s walking route on the day she disappeared.
The Grapes Pub
CCTV at the pub would have seen Nicola, had she been walking in this direction. But it did not capture her, suggesting she took a right turn after presumably leaving the river path.
Police officers pictures patrolling near Rowan Water in St Michael’s on Wyre on February 16
This is the area is at the top field, close to where Nicola was last seen. It has CCTV that covers the gate that enters the field and the front of the site.
Police say this camera is working and have insisted that ‘Nicola has not entered that area or left’ it.
Footage also shows she did not go down Allotment Lane or via the path at the rear of the Grapes pub onto Garstang Road.
The diving expert who scoured the River Wyre for missing Nicola Bulley claimed he will now start a new search on land in an attempt to find where she ‘could have been buried.’
Peter Faulding said the operation to find the missing mother needed to be expanded to woodland surrounding the River Wyre as he insisted: ‘If someone’s in the woods I will find them.’
Mr Faulding claimed it’s time to ‘consider all options’ and this week vowed to look at ‘possible deposition sites’ – especially since there was a report of ‘suspicious people hanging around’ the area where she disappeared.