An officer leading an investigation into the disappearance of mum-of-two Nicola Bulley has said there was an “issue” with her dog that may have led her to the water’s edge.
Nicola was last seen walking her springer spaniel Willow near the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, last Friday morning (Jan 27). Her phone, the dog lead and a harness worn by Willow were found by a bench near the river.
Speaking at a press conference today Superintendent Sally Riley said: “I don’t wish to speculate, in that we don’t know, but it is possible as the dog was loose and off the lead.
“There may have been an issue with the dog that led her to the water’s edge, she puts her phone down to go and deal with the dog momentarily, and Nicola may have fallen in. We assume the dog didn’t get into the river , but we don’t know why Nicola may have if she did.”
Ms Riley added that “the dog was dry” and Ms Bulley could swim.
Superintendent Riley’s comments come as Lancashire Police said their “main working hypothesis” is that Nicola fell into the River Wyre while out walking her dog. She said inquiries so far had left a 10-minute window in which they cannot account for Ms Bulley’s movements last Friday.
They believe she did not leave the riverside area.
Ms Riley said: “Our main working hypothesis is that Nicola has suddenly 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.”
Ms Bulley, 45, a mortgage adviser from Inskip, Lancashire, vanished while walking her dog after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school last Friday. She was last seen at 9.10am and she had logged on to a work teams call, which ended at 9.30am with her still logged on.
Lancashire Police have said they do not believe any crime has been committed and are treating the incident as a missing person inquiry.
Speaking earlier today Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell told Sky News he will “never lose hope”, one week on from her disappearance. Mr Ansell said he “cannot get his head around” how Nicola had vanished, and said his focus was on staying strong for their two daughters.
Speaking near the scene where Ms Bulley was last seen, Mr Ansell told broadcasters: “Every single scenario comes to a brick wall. Every single one of them.
“All we are doing is sitting there going round and round and round through each scenario.”
He added: “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.”
The 44-year-old said his “whole focus is my two girls” and that he was “hoping to goodness” that people would come forward with new information following an interview with Ms Bulley’s parents and sister on Thursday.
On Friday morning, members of the local community stood by the side of the road holding signs bearing Ms Bulley’s photo, urging people to contact the police with information.
Mr Ansell said the support from the community had given the family “a great amount of comfort”. Ms Bulley’s friend, Emma White, told the BBC: “Seven days on, such a tough milestone today for all the family and friends.
“We’re out in force today. We’ve had banners made, placards with her face, so the idea is that seven days on there might be someone that’s passing today that passed last Friday, that might be able to shed that glimmer of hope we need.”
She added: “They are the most close-knit family. Those poor girls asking questions, ‘where’s mummy, how is mummy’.”
Lancashire Police have been joined by other emergency services and forces from other areas in the search for Nicola and underwater dive teams, drones and sniffer dogs have been seen scouring the area.