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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Emily Atkinson

Diver who searched for Nicola Bulley ‘removed from National Crime Agency expert list’

Family handout/PA

A diving specialist who searched for missing mother Nicola Bulley has been struck from the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) list of experts.

Peter Faulding led a team of experts and divers to assist Lancashire Police in searching the river for the missing dog walker using specialist sonar equipment.

Specialist Group International (SGI), led by Mr Faulding, was suspended this week while a review is carried out, law enforcement sources confirmed to The Times.

Faulding, left, with Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell on a visit to the riverside (PA)

During the protracted search for Bulley, Mr Faulding did not shy away in his criticism of how the investigation was handled, describing the probe as “a mess” and claiming details in the case “don’t add up”. Most recently, he insisted he had been a “fall guy” in her disappearance.

Mr Faulding, who has aided numerous police investigations, was asked by Bulley’s family to help as police searched for the missing mother of two in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre.

His team was given two-and-a-half days to scan a three-mile stretch of the river, between St Michael’s and Cartford Bridge, using a sonar device – but the search came up short.

Mr Faulding then declared to the press that the 45-year-old was not in the river and suggested her phone, discovered by a dog walker on the bench near where she disappeared, may have been a “decoy”.

Mr Faulding and workers from Specialist Group International use a 18kHz side-scan sonar on the river in St Michael’s on Wyre (PA)

“If Nicola was in that river I would have found her – I guarantee you that – and she’s not in that section of the river,” he said on 8 February.

Bulley’s body was pulled from the River Wyre last Sunday 0.9 miles downstream of St Michael’s on Wyre. She was found by members of the public who alerted police to a suspected body.

The NCA’s Expert Advisers Database (EAD), which is used to identify and source experts who can add value to law enforcement investigations, had previously listed Mr Faulding as a registered search expert.

The list spans a broad range of expertise in more than two dozen areas, from forensic artists to toxicology.

Bulley’s body was discovered last Sunday (PA)

A spokesperson for the NCA said: “The NCA does not employ, endorse or accredit experts on our adviser database. The database is subject to continual review and its purpose is to maintain a list of expertise UK law enforcement can draw upon when required.

“We proactively seek feedback from customers regarding experts’ performance and contribution. The monitoring of performance equally applies to individuals and organisations who become involved in investigations without NCA engagement.”

A review into what happened in the case of Bulley is being carried out internally and SGI could be put back on the list depending on its findings, reports The Times.

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