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Daily Record
Daily Record
Douglas Whitbread & Ruth Suter

Nicola Bulley 'did not fall in river', claims diving expert after video 'proof'

There is video proof missing mum Nicola Bulley did not fall into the river where police believe she did, a diving expert has claimed. Peter Faulding, 60, who has led the hunt for Nicola, says a clip of the River Wyre shows it to be slow-moving.

Mr Faulding says this means her body would have sunk "very quickly" and remained nearby if she'd gone in. He also said the rocks by the bank would have been under just 2ft of water when she went missing, meaning she could have simply "stood up" if she'd fallen down.

He said the video makes him believe Nicola didn't fall into the river in St Michael's in Wyre, Lancashire, when she vanished 13 days ago while walking her dog. And he felt a "wider land search" of outbuildings and sheds was now needed after his team's sonar scans of the river failed to find any proof of her body in the river.

Mr Faulding, drafted in to help Lancashire Police's efforts, called off his search on Wednesday after his team found no trace of her using its advanced sonar equipment. But while police probing her disappearance say they believe she fell in, he believes the short clip revealing a barely-moving log on the water blows their theory apart.

He said of the video: "The log stayed at that point for 20 minutes, and it actually spiralled and went up six feet and came back to the same place.

Peter Faulding (PA)

"The river on the day was slightly higher - it was about a foot higher - but I'd be very surprised [if she was there, as] in my experience a body usually goes to the bottom very quickly.vIf Nicola slipped down the bank, she would have landed in about 2ft of water but onto rocks, and she could have stood up."

Mr Faulding's team, Specialist Group International, began searching the River Wyre, which flows from the Forest of Bowland to Fleetwood, Lancashire, and into the Irish sea, on Monday, near where Nicola was last seen on January 27.

But he said they had finished their investigation yesterday afternoon after an extensive search of a one-mile stretch of the river, which is 13ft deep close to where Nicola was last seen, showed she was not there. Mr Faulding said it's his professional opinion that Nicola's body would have been seen if it had floated any further downstream on the day she disappeared.

Scene of the search (Specialist Group International - SGI)

The diver yesterday took Nicola's shattered partner Paul Ansell to the bench where their dog, and her mobile phone, were found on the day she vanished. And the professional, who has solved hundreds of cases, said Paul now believes "Nicola has not gone in that river" 13 days after she was last seen.

But the lack of a body raised hopes that she might still be alive. Mr Faulding said of his conversation with Paul: "He's very upset and he was in tears yesterday. He's very emotional, obviously. He was shocked at how shallow the rocks were yesterday. He thought it was really deep there. If she had gone in she would have landed on the rocks.

"The family thanked us for being here. They said 'You've given us confidence now' and his belief is that Nicola has not gone in that river. We've gone about a mile upstream, which is way up the search area, and ruled there is nothing in that section of the river.

"If you start putting the pieces of the jigsaw together, it's very strange, and it would need an extremely strong current on the day to take her so quickly over the weir before the police arrived. And if she was floating, she would have been seen by the public, or landed elsewhere - and there's just no sign of this poor lady."

Nicola Bulley's partner Paul Ansell seen with forensic expert Peter Faulding (Julian Hamilton/Daily Miiror)

Peter said he now felt a bigger search was required of nearby outbuildings and sheds to ensure that Nicola wasn't in one of them. But he cautioned members of the public from getting involved in the operation.

He said: "My personal view is probably although the search is done of the river, I feel that a wider area land search needs to be done around the specific area. Maybe more talking to the public and looking in sheds and outbuildings and stuff. But there's been people coming up and trying to break into outbuildings looking for Nicola - stay away! It's causing a lot of problems.

He added: "Nobody knows if Nicola is alive or dead, there's no confirmation. All we've got is a mobile phone and a dog harness. We have worked so hard up here, and the family are baffled."

Nicola is white, 5ft 3ins tall, with light brown shoulder-length hair. She speaks with an Essex accent. She was last seen wearing a long, knee-length black quilted gilet with a hood.

She had a black Engelbert Strauss coat underneath which had long sleeves and came to her waist. She was wearing tight black jeans and had long green walking socks tucked into her jeans. She was wearing size 5 ankle-length green wellington boots from Next.

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