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Detectives who have been searching for missing Nicola Bulley for 19 days have held a press conference today as mounting pressure builds on them to find the vanished mother-of-two. Lancashire Police broke a recent silence to face the media and deliver an update on the investigation that has gripped the nation. Mortgage adviser Ms Bulley, 45, disappeared on January 27 as she walked her cocker spaniel Willow along the River Wyre in St Michaels on Wyre, Lancs. Senior officers today held a press conference around 11.45 am in a bid to update the public on what remains a large-scale missing person operation.
Specialist underwater search teams from across the country, sniffer dogs, police drones and horses have all been used in the hunt for Ms Buley, with particular focus on the River Wyre from St Michael’s on Wyre down to the estuary where it enters the sea into Morecambe Bay around 12 miles downstream.
Today Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith has dismissed several theories put forward so far into the mum of two’s disappearance. Speaking at Lancashire Police HQ, she said: “As soon as she was reported missing, following the information that was provided to the police by her partner Paul, and based on a number of specific vulnerabilities that we were made aware of, Nicola was graded as high-risk.
“Those hypotheses included the one that she possibly could have gone into the river, that there could have been third-party involvement and lastly, that she could have left the area voluntarily. Those hypotheses have remained in place throughout, are reviewed regularly.
“At the initial stages based on the information I received, I made it clear that it was my working hypothesis at that time based with all the facts that the main hypothesis I was working on at that time was that Nicola had gone in the river. I hope with all my heart that we find Nicola Bulley alive more than anything.”
During the press conferene SIO Det Supt Smith addressed FIVE key theories and questions surrounding Ms Bulley’s disappearance over the past 19 days, the Mirror reports.
- The Derelict House
The police chief said a nearby derelict house had been searched three times with the permission of its owner and added: “Nicola is not there.”
Last week Lancashire Police warned members of the public not to “take the law into their own hands” and said it “will not tolerate” people committing criminal offences by breaking into empty or derelict riverside properties in an attempt to find the 45-year-old mortgage advisor.
- The Glove Found at the Scene
Det Supt Rebecca Smith confirmed a glove recovered at the scene is not believed to have belonged to Nicola. It had been reported a blue glove was found by two walkers in a field near where Nicola went missing. They were said to have handed it to police who bagged it and took it away.
- The Red Van
The Det Supt said she didn’t believe a red van reportedly seen in the area was suspicious, adding it was “obvious we are being inundated with false information and rumours”.
A witness had earlier contacted the police to report the “red van” said to have been parked in the village close to where Nicola went missing. The 55-year-old witness, who had not been named, told the Times they saw the “tatty red van in Hall Lane outside a barn”.
“I didn’t think anything at the time, but when I saw Nicola had gone missing, I called 101 and spoke to an operator.
- The Fishermen
She told the press conference officers were still attempting to trace fishermen along the riverbank at the time and had contacted local angling clubs, after suggestions someone was trying to hide their face.
A report from a potential witness had claimed to have seen two men on the river the day before and the morning Nicola vanished. Det Sup Smith said it was “not necessarily suspicious”.
- The CCTV at the caravan site
The nearby caravan site was visited by officers and had been believed to be one of several CCTV ‘blind spots’ identified in the search. However, the press conference was told it “was not the case” CCTV was not working, and added officers have been “helped and assisted” by caravan owners.
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No evidence of a crime has been found in the investigation into Nicola Bulley’s disappearance, a police chief said, as he criticised “ill-informed speculation” that had distracted detectives.
Lancashire Police Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson defended his force’s investigation into the case of the missing mother-of-two at a press conference on Wednesday. Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her springer spaniel, Willow, in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre after she dropped her two daughters – aged six and nine – at school on January 27.
Setting out the details of the probe in more detail than police “normally” would, he said the scale has been “unprecedented”. Nearly 40 detectives have sifted through hundreds of hours of CCTV, dashcam footage and tip-offs from the public.
And Mr Lawson said: “There is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.”
He added: “We’ve shared more detail in this conference than would normally be the case but we intended, by doing so – both in terms of the scale of the investigation and the resources and the intensity of it and something around Nicola’s vulnerabilities – that we are able to counter some of… the ill-informed speculation and conjecture that has at times distracted the investigation from what ought to have been its priorities.
“It has been a distraction. That is potentially damaging to the investigation, the community of St Michael’s and most importantly Nicola’s family.”
Senior investigating officer Detective Supt Rebecca Smith said her officers were being “inundated with false information, accusations and rumours”, which are “distracting” them from finding her, as she went through her decision-making process in detail.
She said the 45-year-old was designated a “high-risk” missing person because of a “number of specific vulnerabilities” and her “main working hypothesis” was still that the 45-year-old fell into the River Wyre.
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