A ‘key witness’ in the desperate search for missing mum-of-two Nicola Bulley has come forward, police have confirmed.
Detectives yesterday said they wanted to trace a woman seen pushing a pram near where the dog walker went missing.
In an update, Lancashire Police said the woman had come forward ‘very quickly’, and they warned against ‘totally unacceptable’ speculation and abuse on social media.
The force wrote: ‘We must stress that she was very much being treated as a witness and was one of many people in St Michael’s on Friday, January 27th.
‘Our enquiries to find Nicola are extensive and will include speaking to as many members of the public as possible.
‘The speculation and abuse on social media aimed at some people who are merely assisting our enquiry is totally unacceptable.
‘We would urge people to remember that we are investigating the disappearance of Nicola, and the priority is Nicola and her family. We want to find her and provide answers to her family.’
Police are investigating the theory that Ms Bulley fell in the river, but her family and friends have questioned that.
It is believed the 45-year-old mortgage adviser went missing in ‘a 10-minute window’ while walking her dog, Willow, close to the River Wyre, after dropping off her six and nine-year-old daughters at school.
Ms Bulley had logged in to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am, which ended at 9.30am with her phone still connected to the call.
She was seen by another dog walker at 9.10am – the last known sighting. Her phone was traced to a bench overlooking the river at 9.20am, and later found at around 9.35am, with Willow nearby.
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.’
In an interview with The Sun, Ms White said that police were working to get data off Ms Bulley’s Fitbit watch.
‘The Fitbit had not been synced since Tuesday,’ she said. ‘The police are trying other ways to try to get information from it.’
Timeline of events in the case of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley
– January 27
The 45-year-old dropped her daughters, aged six and nine, off at school in the morning before walking her dog, Willow, in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Lancashire Police have said the mortgage adviser, from nearby Inskip, had been walking along a path beside the River Wyre just before 9am.
She was seen by a dog walker who knew her at around 8.50am, and their pets interacted briefly before they parted ways, according to the force.
At 8.53am, Ms Bulley sent an email to her boss, before logging on to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am.
She was seen by a second witness at 9.10am, the last known sighting.
By 9.30am, Ms Bulley’s Teams call had ended, but her phone stayed connected to the call.
Approximately five minutes later, another dog walker found her phone on a bench beside the river, with Willow darting between the two.
At 10.50am, Ms Bulley’s family and the school attended by her children were told about her disappearance.
Lancashire Constabulary launched an investigation into Ms Bulley’s whereabouts on the same day and appealed for witnesses to contact them.
– January 28
Lancashire Constabulary deployed drones, helicopters and police search dogs as part of the major missing person operation.
They were assisted by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as Bowland Pennine mountain rescue team and the North West underwater search team.
– January 29
Local residents held a meeting at the village hall to organise a search for Ms Bulley at 10.30am on Sunday, according to reports from The Mirror, and around 100 people joined the search.
Police urged volunteers to exercise caution, describing the river and its banks as ‘extremely dangerous’ and saying that activity in these areas presented ‘a genuine risk to the public’.
– January 30
Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Constabulary said police were ‘keeping a really open mind about what could have happened’, and that they were not treating Ms Bulley’s disappearance as suspicious.
– January 31
Lancashire Constabulary 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.
Her family released a statement saying they had been ‘overwhelmed by the support’ in their community, and that her daughters were ‘desperate to have their mummy back home safe’.
– February 1
Ms Bulley’s parents, Ernest and Dot Bulley, spoke to The Mirror about the ‘horror’ they faced over the possibility of never seeing her again.
Her father told the newspaper: ‘We just dread to think we will never see her again, if the worst came to the worst and she was never found, how will we deal with that for the rest of our lives.’
– February 2
Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a second witness who they had identified with the help of the public using CCTV but they told police they did not have any further information to aid their inquiry.
Officers from the North West Police Underwater and Marine support unit searched the area close to where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found, while police divers scoured the River Wyre.
Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s family appealed to the public for help tracing her.
Speaking with Sky News, her sister Louise Cunningham said: ‘There has got to be somebody who knows something and all we are asking is, no matter how small or big, if there is anything you remember that doesn’t seem right, then please reach out to the police.
‘Get in touch and get my sister back.’
Ms Bulley’s father said his family hoped their interview would ‘spark a light’ that would lead to her being found.
– February 3
Lancashire Police said they were working on the hypothesis that Ms Bulley may have fallen into the River Wyre.
Ms Riley urged against speculation, but said it was ‘possible’ that an ‘issue’ with Ms Bulley’s dog may have led her to the water’s edge.
She urged the public to look out for items of clothing Ms Bulley was last seen wearing, and gave an extensive list.
Ms Bulley’s friends also shared heartfelt appeals via television interviews, including Emma White, who told the BBC that Ms Bulley’s daughters were continually asking where she was.
– February 4
Ms Bulley’s friend, Emma White, casts doubt on the police theory that she fell into a river, telling Sky News it was based on ‘limited information’.
She said: ‘When we are talking about a life we can’t base it on a hypothesis, surely we need this factual evidence.
‘That’s what the family and all of us are holding on to, that we are sadly no further on than last Friday.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]
For more stories like this, check our news page.
Get your need-to-know latest news, feel-good stories, analysis and more by signing up to Metro’s News Updates newsletter