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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Ryan Merrifield

Nicola Bulley: Timeline of events 14 days on since mum mysteriously disappeared

The search for missing mum Nicola Bulley has entered its 14th day with still no clear proof of what happened to her.

The 45-year-old vanished while on a dog walk on January 27 soon after dropping off her two young children at school in St Michaels on Wyre, Lancashire.

Her phone was found on a bench overlooking the River Wyre and springer spaniel Willow had been left wandering nearby.

Investigators say they are keeping an open mind about what happened, but have been working off the main hypothesis that she accidentally fell into the water and have ruled out foul play - though Nicola's family still believe there is a possibility someone else was involved.

A specialist underwater forensics firm yesterday pulled out of the search after being pictured at the scene with Nicola's partner Paul Ansell.

Nicola Bulley disappeared on January 27 (Lancashire Constabulary / SWNS.C)

Specialist Group International chief Peter Faulding said he is "100 percent" sure Nicola is not in the stretch of river initially suspected and his job is done.

Police have been forced to warn members of the public from taking law into their own hands when getting involved in the search, with a group last night understood to have been given a dispersal order.

Below is a day-by-day timeline of Nicola's disappearance and the search

January 27

At 8.26am on Friday, January 27, Nicola left her home in Inskip with her two daughters, aged six and nine, dropping them off at school and engaging in a brief conversation with another parent around 15 minutes later.

Leaving her car park at the school, she took Willow for a walk at 8.43am along the river path, and was seen by a dog walker who knew her at around 8.50am and at 8.53am sent an email to her boss.

The bench where Nicola Bulley's phone was found (PA)

It's understood she then texted her friend about meeting up later in the week at 8.57am and then logged into a work conference call at 9.01am.

She was seen by a second witness at 9.10am, the last known sighting before her phone was found on a bench at 9.33am, with the dog wandering nearby.

Nicola's partner Paul Ansell was eventually contacted at around 10.50am and police were called before a search was launched the same day.

January 28

Lancashire Constabulary deployed drones, helicopters and police search dogs as part of the major missing person operation.

They were assisted by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as Bowland Pennine mountain rescue team and the North West underwater search team.

The grounds of a seemingly unoccupied house were searched before the owner is said to have arrived and agreed to check inside.

January 29

Paul Ansell, the partner of Nicola Bulley, views the spot with forensic expert Peter Faulding (Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Local residents held a meeting at the village hall around 10.30am to organise searches, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, attracting over 100 villagers, including Paul.

Police urged volunteers to exercise caution, describing the river and its banks as "extremely dangerous" and saying that activity in these areas presented "a genuine risk to the public".

Volunteer searchers were told to move up river and work in a pincer movement, while professionals moved downstream.

January 30

Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Constabulary said police were "keeping a really open mind about what could have happened", and that they were not treating Ms Bulley's disappearance as suspicious.

She said Nicola's phone was found on a bench with a work teams call still on the screen.

Supt Riley said there was no evidence of any criminal activity or that Nicola has been attacked.

January 31

Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a potential witness, a man who had been walking a small white fluffy dog near the River Wyre at the time of Ms Bulley's disappearance.

He is understood to have lived locally and been a regular on the route, but had not seen Nicola on the day she vanished.

Her family released a statement saying they had been "overwhelmed by the support" in their community, and that her daughters were "desperate to have their mummy back home safe".

February 1

Ms Bulley's parents, Ernest and Dot Bulley, spoke to The Mirror about the "horror" they faced over the possibility of never seeing her again.

Her father said: "We just dread to think we will never see her again, if the worst came to the worst and she was never found, how will we deal with that for the rest of our lives."

They said they had urged the police to reconsider whether Nicola may have been abducted or attacked, but were told this was unlikely.

February 2

Police searched the scene (Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a second witness who they had identified with the help of the public using CCTV but they told police they did not have any further information to aid their inquiry.

Officers from the North West Police Underwater and Marine support unit searched the area close to where Ms Bulley's mobile phone was found, while police divers scoured the River Wyre.

Nicola's family were interviewed on TV, with her sister appealing for anyone with information to come forward and "get my sister back".

February 3

Lancashire Police confirmed for the first time it was working on the hypothesis that Nicola may have fallen into river.

Supt Riley urged against speculation, but said it was "possible" that an "issue" with her dog may have led her to the water's edge and urged the public to look out for Nicola's clothing.

Friends also shared heartfelt appeals via television interviews, including Emma White, who said Nicola's daughters were continually asking where she was - while partner Paul also gave a televised interview.

February 4

Divers were brought in to search the river (PA)

Emma cast doubt on the police theory that she fell into a river, saying it was based on "limited information".

In a Facebook post, Ms Cunningham urged people to "keep an open mind" as there is "no evidence whatsoever" Nicola went in the water.

Lancashire Police then announced it wanted to trace another "key witness" who was seen pushing a pram in the area near where Ms Bulley went missing on the morning of her disappearance.

February 5

The key witness came forward, with the force insisting she was "very much being treated as a witness" as it warned against "totally unacceptable" speculation and abuse on social media.

Private underwater forensics firm Specialist Group International (SGI) offered their services free of charge after speaking to Nicola's family.

The police agreed to draft them in to start the following week.

February 6

Nicola was walking her dog when she went missing (Nikki Bulley - Mortgage Adviser/Facebook)
Peter Faulding is CEO of private underwater search and recovery company Specialist Group International (PA)

SGI chief Peter Faulding told the Mirror his high tech sonar equipment would find Nicola in under an hour if she fell into the water by the bench.

Nicola's friends expressed renewed hope as SGI launched into the water that morning.

Paul released another new statement, marking 10 days since the disappearance occurred, saying: "I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back."

February 7

Superintendent Sally Riley said river searchers are now spreading out towards the sea at Morecambe, but reiterated that police do not believe there was any foul play involved in the disappearance.

She said despite over 500 pieces of information currently being reviewed, investigators are yet to find anything conclusive.

She warned members of the public to refrain from taking the law into their own hands when joining the search effort.

February 8

SGI pulled out of the search on Wednesday, and said they were "100 percent" confident Nicola is not in the immediate stretch of water from the bench after trawling several miles over two days.

Mr Faulding said the case is "baffling" but was glad his team hadn't found a body as it meant Nicola may still be alive somewhere.

He was pictured at the search scene with Paul.

Search team members load sonar equipment aboard a RIB boat (Getty Images)
They said their high-spec sonar 'can see every stick and stone lying on the riverbed' (Getty Images)

Ex-detective superintendent Howard Millington told the Mirror there is a chance now Nicola may never be found, but said third party involvement appeared highly unlikely.

A group, who are believed to have travelled to Lancashire from the Liverpool area, tried to search a building by the river on Wednesday night for the missing mum-of-two. They were reportedly issued a dispersal order by police.

February 9

The search operation has now moved to Morecambe Bay with police seen combing the area in boats.

Lancashire Police has said there is currently no further press conferences scheduled as things stand.

Mr Faulding has shared a video of the river from the day of the disappearance which he claims proves Nicola wasn't in the area by the bench.

The search for missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley has been moved to the coastline (Sky News)

A former Police and Crime Commissioner has questioned why Lancashire Police don't appear to have brought in an outside force to conduct a peer review.

Police officers searching for Nicola may be tracking a "tatty-looking" red van which a witness said was parked close to the spot she disappeared.

Former Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kirkham has put forward seven key questions he believes need to be answered by the Lancashire Police enquiry team.

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