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07th Feb 2023

Nicola Bulley’s phone found by the river ‘could be a decoy’, diving expert suggests

Steve Hopkins

The expert now believes Nicola is in the river

An underwater forensics expert believes Nicola Bulley‘s phone may have been left by the river as a “decoy” as the search for the missing mum enters its 12th day.

Specialist Group International (SGI) were drafted in by Lancashire Police on Monday to help trawl the River Wyre for the 45-year-old who was last seen walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre at 9.10am on 27 January, having earlier dropped her daughters, aged six and nine, at school. The mortgage broker’s phone, still connected to a work call, and the dogs lead and harness were found a short time later. Police are now trying to account for a missing 10-minute period and they continue to trawl the river.

SGI founder, Peter Faulding, who initially suggested his team would find Nicola “straight away” if she was in the river – which is Lancashire Police’s “main working hypothesis” – has since said he is “truly baffled” by the case.

The expert said there were several confusing elements to the case, but since beginning the search has said that he does believe Nicola went into the water, where he’s set to resume searching Tuesday. Nicola’s dog, a cocker spaniel called Willow, was found wandering alone nearby, which prompted the search to begin.

Speaking to TalkTV on Monday night, Faulding said: “After 25 years of doing this kind of work, after hundreds of cases, I am well and truly baffled.

“When people drown they generally go down where they are. We normally find them within five to ten metres of where they went down even after a few days.

“This is the most baffling case that I have ever worked on. The police have nothing to go on. ”

“All they have is a mobile phone at the moment and they said it could possibly be a decoy.”

At 9.33am – 23 minutes after Nicola was last seen – another dog walker found her phone on a bench, with a distressed Willow nearby.

Nicola’s boyfriend Paul Ansell released another appeal on Monday, and thanked Mr Faulding and his team for the efforts.

“I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back,” he said.

Over the weekend Faulding branded the police investigation a “mess” and suggested police could not rule out third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance “when they haven’t actually checked”.

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