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11th Feb 2023

Nicola Bulley’s partner describes moment he first realised something was wrong

Steve Hopkins

‘It’s like your world just drops out because you know something weird has happened

The partner of missing mum-of-two, Nicola Bulley, has described the exact moment he realised something was wrong and told how his “whole world” just dropped out.

Paul Ansell spoke to Channel 5’s Dan Walker about his partner of 12 years, who was last seen walking her cocker spaniel along the River Wyre, Lancashire, at 9.10am on January 27 – and the range of emotions he had been through – “anger”, “confusion” and “utter disbelief” – as the search enters its third week.

Before she was last seen, Nicola had dropped her daughters, aged six and nine, at school, and Paul explained to Dan that this is when he usually gets an “hour to myself” and makes a cup of tea.

“She’s usually back at 9.45 [on average], 10am at a push,” Paul explained.

“I got into the office at 10 saying: ‘She’ll be back in a minute.’ I was doing some emails, setting my day up… it got to say, 10.15 and I thought ‘she’s later than usual’ but I wasn’t particularly worried because she has come back at 10.15, 10.20 sometimes… it’s not often but she has got back [then].”

When it got to 1030am, Paul knew something was up.

“That’s when I thought: ‘She’s quite late now, more late than usual.’ I tried ringing her phone, ringing her on WhatsApp… no answer. I started to get a bit panicky, I think.”

“That’s when I thought: ‘I’m gonna have to go down there, see if she’s alright. I still expected to see her there, there she is.’”

Nicola phone, still connected to a work call, and her’s dogs leash and harness, were found near a bench where Lancashire Police’s “main working hypothesis” is that she accidentally fell into the river.

Paul described getting ready to go to the gym as he normally would, and planned to check in on Nicola on the way. But, then his phone rang. It was the kids’ school saying Nicola’s phone, and her dog, Willow, had been found.

“In an instant it’s like your whole… I knew straight away that it wasn’t normal. I said: ‘Well where is she?’ I knew she would never in a million years leave Willow. Willow is like our third child… the fact that Willow is just in the field on her own off the lead is concerning,” he told Channel 5.

Paul said he was “just in a mad panic then”.

“I got hit by that weird, it’s like your world just drops out because you know something weird has happened. I got in the car, drove down there, ran down the river to where the bench is… someone had willow, there were a few other dog walkers, handed me Willow, handed me Nikki’s phone.”

Paul said he phoned police at 10.45am and was told to go home so they could speak with him.

Lancashire Police have continued to investigate Nicola’s disappearance on the premise that she fell into the River Wyre, saying there is no evidence of third-party involvement. However, they have admitted she could have left the area via a path not covered by CCTV.

On Thursday, police divers started trawling across Morecambe Bay, some 20 miles from where police believe Nicola fell in the river.

Paul is “100%” sure she did not fall in the river.

Peter Faulding, the head of a team of divers called it by police to help with the search, shares that belief.

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