The search for Nicola Bulley has entered its 14th day with her devastated family still no closer to knowing what happened to the missing mother-of-two. Yesterday diving expert Peter Faulding halted his search of the River Wyre near to where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found and does not believe she fell into the water. Police, meanwhile, believe that is still the most likely scenario but say it remained a ‘possibility’ that the 45-year-old left the area by one path not covered by CCTV cameras – but added that ‘every single’ suspicion or criminal suggestion had so far been discounted. Here we look at 10 unanswered questions…
1: Did she fall in the river?
This remains the police’s ‘main belief’, but with no body, Nicola Bulley’s friend Emma White said the theory had ‘no evidence’. Diving expert Peter Faulding said: ‘I don’t think she’s in the river’. He said drowning victims normally sink where they are.
2: Why are there no slip marks?
It is steep there – so did she lose her footing and topple in, rather than slide? Critics said any marks might have been erased because the area has not remained cordoned off.
3: Couldn’t she swim to safety?
Friend Tilly Ann said Ms Bulley was an ‘incredibly strong swimmer’. Mr Faulding said the river was only 3ft deep by the bench and there were rocks to grab hold of.
He added: ‘I can’t see how she could drown here.’ But Ms Bulley was wearing two coats which might have weighed her down. Experts said many gasp when falling into cold water, ‘meaning water fills your lungs’.
4: What about the dog’s ball?
Police said she may have approached the water’s edge to retrieve spaniel Willow’s tennis ball. But Ms Bulley’s friend said she had stopped taking a ball on walks because Willow would ‘pester’ her for it.
5: Did her body pass the weir?
Locals said that whenever sheep fall in, the weir 350 yards away prevents them from drifting downstream.
6: Was she swept out to sea?
The river meets the sea 13 miles from where she vanished. Police searched beyond the weir, but Mr Faulding did not. He believes it is ‘impossible’ her body drifted that far. But police superintendent Sally Riley said: ‘The sea [is becoming] more of a possibility.’
7: Was a ‘third party’ involved?
Views of those searching differ. Mr Faulding said: ‘There’s probably a third party involved.’ Superintendent Riley said ‘every single potential third-party line of inquiry’ was looked at and discounted.
8: Was the phone a ‘decoy’?
Ms Bulley’s phone was found at 9.33am on the bench by the river. Technical examination revealed it had been placed there at 9.20am, but not by whom. Police believe Ms Bulley put it down momentarily to attend to the dog. Mr Faulding suggested that, if she was abducted, the phone ‘was a decoy’ to make it seem as if she had fallen in.
9: Are there alternative paths?
Apart from the river, there are only three exits, two of which are covered by CCTV. On her way in, she was seen by several people. No one saw her leave.
10: Are there CCTV blackspots?
A second camera pointing into the field was not working. There are no cameras covering the path back to Garstang Road. Police have identified 700 motorists on the road at the time and asked for dashcam footage.