Missing mum search may take months as police examine all evidence

Nicola Bulley: Forensic search expert provides update

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An expert has admitted that the desperate search for missing mum Nicola Bulley, who vanished without trace, could go on for months. Mum-of-two Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen walking her dog by the River Wyre in Lancashire 11 days ago – on January 27. She had dropped her children off at school before taking her Spaniel Willow out along a path she knows well. But what happened next still remains a mystery to various search teams and Lancashire Police who spent hours yesterday scouting the riverbed for signs of a body. A team of divers from the private Specialist Group International (SGI), reportedly searched “three or four miles” of river until darkness fell on Monday.

Today, teams are looking further upstream, with state-of-the-art technology continually deployed to aid the search mission. But, so far, with little success and a lack of credible clues to suggest where the missing mortgage advisor may have gone, experts have been looking at what else can be done.

Charlie Hedges MBE, a leading expert on missing persons, with some 26 years of experience in the field, told Express.co.uk: “April Jones went missing in mid-Wales around 10 years ago and that went on for months.”

He implied that police just won’t give up after weeks, and that the search may go on for months as more lines of enquiry come to light. He added: “The Nicola Bulley case will depend on what other imformation and evidence comes to light, which is the guiding factor.

“Police will continue searching until there is no realistic opporunity of finding her. This search may change, but the challenge with search is that you have to layer it and do it in mutiple ways to improve the chances of the probability of success.”

He admitted it is “really hard to know’ how long a search of this kind could go on for, especially with the multi-agency response currently deployed at the scene. Mr Hedges added: “Advanced underwater search techniques have been developed and will be used.

“Underwater search teams are still a valuable asset and they have a strcutured method and passage of search to try and find things. The use of drones has moved things on considerably as they give a quick and easy view of what is going on or sometimes reveal things from the air that aren’t easily visible from the ground.

“Sonar [is useful] in areas that you can’t see that will reveal information about objects underwater.” Private diving team Specialist Group International has been using 8kHz side-scan sonar on the river in St Michael’s on Wyre, to search for Ms Bulley.

Mr Hedges said: “Everything is driven by need of proportionality and the information that is availabile. The investigation will look at the cirucmstances and where things that took place and the likelihood of things that happened.

“There needs to be a search strategy based on the information available and the terrain that is being looked at….It is about making an assessment of what is the most appropriate resource to use at that particular time.”

Ms Bulley’s phone had been discovered on a bench still connected to a work conference call at the time – but despite a widespread operation underway, there has been no other confirmation of any other belongings being found.

Superintendent Sally Riley, who is leading the investigation, said detectives have failed to spot Nicola leaving the park on CCTV. Despite beliefs from police that the 45-year-old may have fallen into the river, officials remain “open minded” and have said they are still pursuing a “huge number” of inquiries.

Lancashire Police said in an update: “We can say with confidence that by reviewing CCTV, Nicola has not left the field during the key times via Rowanwater, either through the site itself or via the piece of land at the side.

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“Also, we can say that she did not return from the fields along Allotment Lane or via the path at the rear of the Grapes pub on to Garstang Road.

“Our inquiries now focus on the river path which leads from the fields back to Garstang Road – for that we need drivers and cyclists who travelled that way on the morning of January 27 to make contact.”

Express.co.uk has reach ot to Lancashire police for further comment.

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