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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Damon Wilkinson & Sophie Collins

Specialist diver who failed to find Nicola Bulley removed from National Crime Agency's expert list

The National Crime Agency has reportedly had to remove a specialist diver, who was involved with the search for Nicola Bulley, from its list of experts.

Peter Faulding had said that he would find the missing mum if she was in the River Wyre, in Lancashire, where she was last seen walking her dog.

His Specialist Group International (SGI) joined the search for the 45-year-old woman and indicated that she 'was not in that section of the river' three days later.

READ MORE: Woman claiming to be Madeleine McCann could go to court to force DNA test as she slams 'suspicious' mum

The private specialist group, who have assisted in several high-profile investigations, spent two and a half days scanning a 4.8 kilometre stretch of the river, using what Mr. Faulding described as 'state of the art' sonar technology.

However, they failed to find her body, which walkers spotted 23 days after her disappearance. Now, law enforcement sources have confirmed that SGI has been suspended while a review is carried out, The Times reports.

This week, SGI was allegedly dropped from an official list of experts recommended to assist in investigations on the Expert Advisers database.

A National Crime Agency spokesperson told the publication that it "does not employ, endorse or accredit experts" on its adviser database.

Nicola Bulley (Lancashire Constabulary / SWNS.C)

The spokesperson continued: "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."

Nicola's body was found last weekend following a sighting by people out walking less than a mile downstream from where she was last seen with her cocker spaniel Willow. Having failed to find her body, Mr. Faulding explained his £55,000 sonar could only scan the water and cannot travel through reeds.

Mr. Faulding, 60, had previously denied that he gave the family false hope. He explained his team was tasked with searching the 'non-tidal part' of the river past the bench where Nicola's phone was found.

Mum-of-two Nicola Bulley, 45, (Lancashire Constabulary / SWNS.C)

They used 'high-frequency side-scan sonar' to search the riverbed and 'categorically' confirmed Nicola was not there. He has not commented on reports he has lost his status on the NCA database.

Mr Faulding said they did search where the body was found and that they didn't see Nicola 'on the days we searched'.

"The police underwater search teams and land search teams were searching for three full weeks and were also unable to find Nicola," he said.

"Unfortunately, it was a member of the public that made a grim discovery, unconfirmed as yet to be Nicola.

“Sadly, the discovery was not found in the river but in the reeds at the side of the river which was not part of our remit as the side scan sonar does not penetrate reeds above or below the water.”

He added: "A riverbank and wade search would be the only way to search this area and we were not involved or tasked with that search.

“The difference between these two search areas has caused a lot of confusion and unfair criticism towards myself and my team at Specialist Group International (SGI).

A body was found by divers on February 19 (Getty Images)

"My previous comments said that if Nicola was in the river, I would find her, still standing. My team and I at SGI did all we could to assist this family with only our best intentions. I am sure I can say this of everyone who has been involved in this difficult search."

SGI has been contacted for comment.

Since Nicola's disappearance, the police, social media sleuths, and media outlets have received widespread criticism.

TikTok has threatened to remove users who spread misinformation about the mum-of-two after the app was blasted for allowing conspiracy theories to spread on its platform during the search.

A mural has been painted in Nicola's memory in her home town as the family prepares for her funeral.


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