Nicola Bulley's 'frustrated' partner visits scene where she vanished

Nicola Bulley’s ‘frustrated’ partner visits scene where she vanished nearly two weeks ago as search team warns the missing mother ‘may never be found’

  • Paul Ansell was pictured with diving expert Peter Faulding at the scene today
  • The pair were joined by a senior detective and a friend of the missing mother

Nicola Bulley’s ‘frustrated’ partner today visited the scene where she went missing 12 days ago – as search teams warn that the mother-of-two may never be found.

Paul Ansell, 44, was pictured with diving expert Peter Faulding, who told the anxious father ‘she’s not here’ during a third day of meticulous searching along the River Wyre in Lancashire.

The pair were joined by a senior detective and a friend of Nicola, who listened attentively as Mr Faulding explained how the water where police believe the 45-year-old drowned is particularly shallow.

But Mr Faulding told the partner of the missing mother-of-two that she ‘may never be found’ as he confirmed Specialist Group International, the team of expert divers assisting police, are halting their search of the river.

He said: ‘I’d have thought that she would have surfaced by now and would have been found by dog walkers – that’s my honest opinion.

Paul Ansell, the partner of Nicola Bulley, pictured with Peter Faulding during a visit to the scene at the River Wyre

The pair were joined by a senior detective and a friend of Nicola, who listened attentively as Mr Faulding explained how the water where police believe the 45-year-old drowned was particularly shallow

‘Most bodies are found by members of the public… and that’s what I’m surprised about, that Nicola hasn’t been found so far. At this point it’s open. The police are continuing their investigation.’

Police dive teams will continue the search in the absence of SGI, focusing efforts on the lower estuary towards Morecambe Bay.

READ MORE: The opposing theories on Nicola Bulley explained: Police and private diving team remain at loggerheads


Mr Ansell, meanwhile, was at the scene for around two hours today.

After being informed Ms Bulley was not in the river, he was seen speaking in the back of an incident support van and holding his head in his hands. 

He hugged family members and spoke to Mr Faulding before being driven away from the area.

Mr Faulding told The Telegraph: ‘He is a frustrated man because, obviously, he has no partner.

‘It’s a very difficult situation to be with such an upset man. It’s tough dealing with Paul. You hear what he is going through with his kids coming home to no mum at night.’

He took MailOnline to the scene and pointed out that the water was fairly shallow – no deeper than 3ft – and covered with jagged rocks.

He said: ‘If this is where Nicola fell in you can see that the water is not particularly deep. There are lots of rocks and if she was in the water she would be able to grab hold of them.

‘No one heard any shouts for help and I just can’t see how she could drown here.

‘The only possibility is that she fell head first and was knocked out on the rocks, but I don’t see how that could happen.’

Mr Ansell and Ms Bulley pictured together. The mother-of-two has been missing for nearly two weeks

While police still maintain that she most likely fell into the river, superintendent Sally Riley, of Lancashire Police, said 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. 

The path in question is crossed by the main road through the village and officers are trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who passed along the road at the time she disappeared, around 9.20am.

They have also extended their search 10 miles away towards Fleetwood and the Irish Sea in the belief her body has been swept away from the point of entry in the village of St Michael’s on the Wyre.

Mr Faulding disputes the police theory that the body could have ended up so far away and in the Irish Sea.

Based on his 20 years of experience in finding drowning victims he insisted her body would have remained at the bottom of the river for several days and police would have found her.

His suggestion that a ‘third party’ could be involved and abducted the mother-of-two has put him at loggerheads with the police investigation.

It comes as a close family friend of the missing mother-of-two, Tilly Ann, today urged police to search an abandoned house and surrounding outbuildings a short distance from the river.

A close family friend of the missing mother-of-two, Tilly Ann, today urged police to search an abandoned house and surrounding outbuildings

Nicola Bulley (pictured with her partner Paul) vanished while walking her dog Willow along the riverbed on January 27, moments after dropping her two children off at school. She was last seen at 9.10am by a fellow dogwalker, before her phone and her pup’s harness were found on a nearby bench at around 9.20am, and the alarm was raised

In an updated Facebook post, she wrote: ‘The abandoned house and outbuildings etc have not yet been searched as it is not currently a crime investigation!!!!!! (This should have been done straight away!).’

However, a police statement on Monday said officers had searched a ‘derelict house’ nearby.

It said: ‘Our enquiries so far have included searches of the river and riverbank which have extended all the way to the sea using specialist search teams, sonar, search dogs, drone and helicopter, house to house and CCTV.

‘We have also spoken to numerous witnesses, analysed Nicola’s mobile phone and fitbit and searched the derelict house on the other side of the river as well as any empty caravans in the vicinity.’

Meanwhile, announcing he had called off the search on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Faulding said: ‘We are happy that the area where Nicola’s phone was found and the harness, we’ve thoroughly searched it from all the way down to the weir and up to the bridge, about a mile upstream, and we’ve confirmed to Paul [her partner] that there’s nothing in that area.

‘That’s been dived by police dive teams three times as well… and on the day that Nicola went missing it was dived in the afternoon, with no sign of Nicola.’

He added: ‘I’ve worked on some weird cases, but this is a baffling case. For someone whose mobile phone was found there… I would’ve expected Nicola to be found that afternoon by the police dive team, normally down in the water, but there was no sign of her.’

Lancashire Police search teams carry and and construct two inflatable Rib boats as they head towards the River Wyre

Police last night admitted that Nicola could have left the area with a third party when she vanished during a dog walk near the village of St. Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, some 12 days ago (Pictured: Lancashire Police carrying inflatable Rib boats during the search for Nicola on Wednesday) 

He said he simply ‘didn’t know’ where Nicola was, adding: ‘I was determined to find Nicola, but one good thing is that I didn’t want to find a body, so I’m happy we haven’t found Nicola’s body, which can lead to other areas, so we don’t know if Nicola is alive, this is just a baffling case.

‘After the end of today, we’ve done what we’ve come here to do, we’ve cleared the area for the police and the family, we can say that in the top section of river and some of the section going down towards the sea, that she’s not in that part.’

He said he could not comment on ‘further down the estuary’ because his team was not searching that area.

‘We just want to bring some form of closure,’ he added, ‘And I say again that I’m happy we never found a body and Paul is relieved we found nothing up there.’

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