Expert diver says he ‘doesn’t think’ Nicola Bulley is in River Wyre

An expert diver who is aiding the search for Nicola Bulley has said he “doesn’t think she is in the water”, as specially trained divers continue to scour the River Wyre.

Bulley, 45, from Inskip in Lancashire, vanished on the morning of 27 January while taking her dog, Willow, for a walk close to the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre.

On Monday, Lancashire police repeated the force’s working hypothesis that Bulley, 45, fell into the river, adding “but we remain open-minded, and we are continuing to carry out a huge number of inquiries”.

A leading forensic search expert, Peter Faulding, who founded the company Specialist Group International, joined the effort to find Bulley after offering to assist the police free of charge, drafting in a team of six divers.

Speaking to TalkTV on Monday night, he said: “I personally don’t think she’s in the river, that’s just my gut instinct at this point.”

He added that they would go back up the river on Tuesday, to search once again near the point where Bulley’s mobile phone was found on a bench.

The force has renewed its appeal for anyone with dashcam or other relevant footage to submit it to officers, with a particular interest in the river path which leads from the fields back to Garstang Road.

Workers assist in the search for Nicola Bulley.
Workers assist in the search for Nicola Bulley. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

In a new statement released on Monday, Bulley’s partner, Paul Ansell, said: “It’s been 10 days now since Nicola went missing and I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back.

“This has been such a tough time for the girls especially but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends, as well as the wider community and I want to thank them for their love and support.”

He added: “If anyone has any information which could help find Nicola, I urge them to get in touch with the police and help us provide the answers we all so badly need.”

Faulding said that his main motivation for getting involved was to “bring closure for the family”. He said he had very high frequency sonar equipment, along with 20 years’ experience of this kind of underwater search mission. He said he would begin the work by carrying out aerial surveillance of the river by helicopter to get a better understanding of it.

However, by Monday evening he confessed he was “baffled” by the case. “Police were there on day one diving where the phone was found on the bench,” he told the Daily Mail. “Normally if a person has drowned, they go down within a few metres if being searched for the same day.

“We will be going over that same area [on Tuesday]. We will also be going quite a lot further up river.

Related: Nicola Bulley: mystery of 10-minute window in which she disappeared

“In another couple of days I will be confident she is not in that area at all. We have the best sonar you can buy. We have scanned a huge area today and there is nothing there.

“A body will move after a time, but they searched that area and came up with nothing – that is what is weird here,” he added. “We are baffled.”

Lancashire police said that after reviewing CCTV, they were confident Bulley did not leave the field during “key times” via the Rowanwater holiday park, either through the site itself or via the piece of land at the side.

In addition, the force said Bulley did not return from the fields along Allotment Lane or via the path at the rear of the Grapes pub on to Garstang Road.

Officers would be contacting drivers who they believe were travelling down Garstang Road on 27 January by letter, Lancashire police said in a statement.