POLICE searching for Nicola Bulley have revealed what they believe happened to the missing mum as they focus on a crucial ten minute window.
The dog walker, 45, vanished after dropping her children off at school in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, last Friday.
Since then there has been no trace of missing Nicola, leaving her family in agony.
Lancashire Police today said their "main working hypothesis" is that Nicola had "sadly fallen in the river".
Supt Sally Riley said “Based on all the work we have done so far, we are now as confident as we can be that Nicola has not left the field where she was last seen and our working hypothesis is that she has fallen into the river for some reason.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that there is anything suspicious about her disappearance or any third-party involvement in her going missing.
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"Our investigation remains open and we will of course act on any new information which comes to light."
The officer said there may have been an "issue" with dog Willow that led Nicola to the edge of the water.
Willow was off the lead at the time and police believe the mum could have placed her phone on the bench to deal with the dog when she potentially fell in.
Supt Riley said the dog "was dry" – suggesting Willow did not enter the water – and confirmed Nicola could swim.
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The officer also confirmed there is a ten minute window where they cannot account for Nicola's movements.
This is between 9.10am – the last confirmed sighting – and 9.20am when Nicola's phone is believed to have been on a bench while connected to a work call.
Officers also outlined the search for the mum as they confirmed they have been checking CCTV and dashcam footage for a sign of Nicola.
Supt Sally Riley said a number of witnesses have been spoken to and the search area has been widened.
She also gave a list of clothing Nicola was last seen wearing – including an ankle-length black quilted gilet jacket.
Nicola had a a black Engelbert Strauss waist-length coat underneath the gilet and was wearing black tight-fitting jeans.
She had long green walking socks tucked into her jeans, ankle-length green Next wellies, a necklace and a pale blue Fitbit on.
Supt Riley said: "It's really important that the public pay heed to those very specific clothing descriptions please, because factual sightings of those items would be very useful to us."
The development comes as partner Paul Ansell told friends he is "trying to be strong" for their daughters, who are aged nine and six.
One pal told the Mirror: "They want to go out and find mummy. It’s utterly heartbreaking.
"They just desperately want her home."
Paul today visited the route where she vanished to appeal for information.
Speaking to reporters at the scene, he said: "My whole focus is my two girls, just staying as strong as I can for them.
"I'm scared that if I put focus into anything else it's going to take my focus off that.
"Just hoping to goodness that anything comes out from the interview yesterday no matter how tiny."
Paul said he keeps playing "every scenario" in his head "around and around" but each one comes to a "brick wall".
He added: "It is as though she has vanished into thin air."
The dad said he would "never lose the hope" of finding missing Nicola.
Paul added: "I can't believe that we're here a week on and as yet, it seems like we're not further on.
"It just seems absolutely impossible, like a dream.
"I just can't get my head around it."
Paul also thanked the local community for their "amazing" support.
He said: "It’s the only thing that we can take (from the situation) is that the level of support is out of this world.
“It gives us a great amount of comfort knowing that that’s going on, we don’t have anything else.
"We’re never going to lose hope, but it is as though she has vanished into thin air. It’s just insane.”
His comments come as it emerged Nicola had sent a text message to a pal just minutes before she disappeared.
Search efforts for the missing mum have ramped up as specialist teams focus on a stretch of river.
Police yesterday cordoned off a footpath that leads to a bench where Nicola’s phone and dog were found.
Divers were also seen entering the water where the mum was last seen walking along the towpath.
Officers have now released a timeline of the missing mum’s final movements before she disappeared.
Nicola, 45, began her walk along the towpath to the River Wyre at 8.43am after dropping her two children off at school.
Police say around seven minutes later, a dog walker who knows Nicola saw her walking around the lower field with her springer spaniel Willow.
The witness said their two dogs interacted briefly before she left Nicola via the river path.
At 8.53am, the mum sent an email to her boss at Exclusively Mortgages.
She then logged into a Teams call at 9.01am and was seen around nine minutes later on the upper field walking Willow.
Police say at 9.30am, the work call ended but Nicola stayed logged on.
At around 9.35am, the mobile and Willow were found at a bench by the river but there was no sign of Nicola.
Nicola's family yesterday released an emotional appeal as they told how her children "need her home".
Sister Louise Cunningham told Sky News: "If I'm being honest, it feels like I'm just stuck in a nightmare.
"We're going round and round in circles trying to piece together what could have possibly happened.
"It's like she's just vanished into thin air. We just want her home, we need her home, her children need her home. It's absolutely heartbreaking."
Lancashire Police confirmed they are “keeping a really open mind about what could have happened”.
Supt Sally Riley said: “We know that Nicola going missing has caused a great deal of concern for the wider local community, as well as obviously being an awful time for her family.
“This remains a missing person inquiry and at this time there is nothing to suggest any third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.
“I appreciate that there are unanswered questions about what has happened to Nicola, but I would urge people not to speculate or spread false rumours. We will share updates when we can, but we must be factual.
“Nicola’s family are being kept up to date with events and are being supported by officers.
“We are really grateful for the community’s help and co-operation so far, but I’d like to stress again parts of the riverbank are treacherous, especially after the recent rain, and we would ask that nobody puts themselves in danger and that the police and partner agencies’ efforts to find Nicola are not compromised."
Nicola has been described as white, 5ft 3ins tall with light-brown shoulder-length hair
She was last seen wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellies with her hair in a ponytail.
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Nicola has an Essex accent and links to the Thornton-Cleveleys area near Blackpool.
Anybody with information about where she might be is asked to call 101, quoting log 473 of January 27, or ring 999 for immediate sightings.
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