A Lancashire family who lost a son in the same stretch of river as Nicola Bulley on the same day 45 years ago say they “know her family’s pain”.
The mum-of-two’s disappearance has been in headlines across the UK, and the case has brought back harrowing memories for the brother of a student who died in the area back in 1978. Student Roger Jones was thrown into a fast-flowing brook that fed into the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre following a motorcycle crash.
It was near the same that mortgage advisor Nicola, 45, was last seen walking her beloved springer spaniel Willow on January 27. Lancashire Police launched an extensive search of the area and said their “main working hypothesis” was that she fell in a river but a body has not yet been found.
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The Mirror reports that Roger’s brother Don Jones, who now lives in Caton, said: “We feel so much for Nicola’s family and friends. We know just what they must be going through”.
Roger was a pupil at the former Fulwood High School, where he was working to go to Myerscough College to study agriculture and follow his dream of becoming a farmer. The 16-year-old had been returning home one night as a passenger on a friend’s motorbike when they crashed into a car on a narrow bridge in Woodplumpton, near Preston.
The bike rider was badly injured and unconscious when emergency services arrived, and was unable to tell them he had a passenger. It was 3am before police were alerted that someone was missing and returned to the bridge.
While a massive police search was launched, that included dog patrols, divers, and mounted police, Roger’s body was not discovered until two months later, when it washed up on a sandbank at low tide seven miles from St Michael’s, the town where Nicola was last seen. Don, a journalist for Granada TV, said that his family were “exhausted” by the time his younger brother’s body was found, adding: “It was just a case of waiting for what seemed inevitable”.
He said that the river conditions when Roger went missing 45 years ago were “pretty similar” to the conditions Nicola may have faced in the River Wyre, adding: “He was obviously swept over the weir and into the tidal part of the river.”
Don said that he and his family didn’t have to deal with social media trolls and conspiracy theorists chiming in, adding that it “must be a nightmare for [Nicola’s family] to deal with”.
He added that he and his family also had to deal with “clairvoyants and spiritualists”, which he said “proved very upsetting, especially for our mum”.
Lancashire Police have renewed their appeal for dashcam footage of St Michael’s on the morning of January 27 when Nicola was last seen at around 9.20am. Nicola had dropped off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school, then took Willow, her springer spaniel, for a walk alongside the River Wyre and police believe she fell in while on the walk, leaving her phone on a bench, still connected to a work call.
Sixty officers are working to locate the 45-year-old mortgage advisor, with the National Crime Agency on hand to review Lancashire Police’s investigation to see if any clues slipped through the net. The county force again rejected suggestions that Nicola could have been a victim of crime, with detectives believing she has “most likely” fallen into the river.
Multiple searches of the “hot-spot” area near the bench, the suspected “entry point” of where Nicola went into the water, have been conducted by police divers and underwater search experts. Nicola’s family called in help from Peter Faulding, of Specialist Group International, but after a three-day search earlier this week, no trace of Nicola was found.
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