Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Wales Online
Wales Online
Ffion Lewis

Who is Peter Faulding: The expert looking for Nicola Bulley who searched for April Jones and tried to solve the mystery of the Welsh spy in a suitcase

As the search for missing mum Nicola Bulley approaches the two week mark, one man, rescue and forensic search specialist Peter Faulding, has found himself at the centre of the opperation. The expert joined the search in its second week after being brought in by Nicola's family to work alongside Lancashire Police on the investigation.

Nicola was last seen while walking her dog, Willow, on Friday, January 27, in the Lancashire village of St Michael's on Wyre. Several underwater searches have been carried out in the river next to the bench where her phone was found, but no traces of Nicola have been found.

The diving expert, who was not being paid for his services searching for the 45-year-old, said his team "categorically" do not think Nicola is in the section of the river where detectives believe she fell in. On Wednesday evening Peter's specialist team pulled out of the search, saying they felt they had done all they could.

Read more: Nicola Bulley search expert Peter Faulding attacks 'trash' criticism his team has faced

After withdrawing from the case, the professional strongly responded to people online who have accused him of having ulterior motives for helping to search for missing Nicola. The diving expert, who was not being paid for his services, said his team do not deserve some of the "trash" they have been accused of.

When asked on TalkTV about the detractors who have been commenting online saying he has ulterior motives, he said: "I have given my time to many cases free of charge. We get paid to do police diving operations, but I offered my services free of charge for a whole week in the April Jones case. There was no media around. I never gave any interviews for that. I donate life jackets for kids in schools, I do a lot for charity, I don't need publicity.

"The press have come to me for this. If I don't give information then I get slated. I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. There is no ulterior motive for me."

But who is Peter Faulding? And what other high profile cases has he been involved in?

His career started in 1996 after he was tasked by the authorities to search and safely remove environmental protesters from manmade tunnels under the proposed route of the Newbury Bypass. Since then, Peter and Specialist Group International which was founded in 1995 have safely carried out several major protester removal operations both on land and at sea.

Specialist Group International (SGI) have also trained military personnel as well as working with the US Secret Service and FBI and police search advisers in the UK. Peter served in the Parachute Regiment for the British Army for six years.

The search for Nicola is not Peter and his team's first high profile case. In 2012, Peter helped officers investigate the death of MI6 officer Gareth Williams who was found naked inside a padlocked bag, which had been placed inside the bathtub, in 2010. The keys to the padlock were found inside the bag under his body.

He carried out tests to prove that it would have not have been possible for Mr Williams to lock himself in the bag without leaving a trace of DNA on the bath, bag, zip or padlock. Peter also suggested it would be possible for someone to place a non-rigor mortis body into a bag and carry it without help. Tests also showed that Mr Williams would have suffocated in less than 30 minutes if he had been placed in the bag alive. After evaluating the case, Peter said that it was unlikely he had been placed inside the bag alive as there were no signs of a struggle.

Peter Faulding demonstrates how to lock yourself in a bag. (Mirror Screen Grab)

One of the biggest cases Peter worked on was the hunt for five-year-old April Jones, who was abducted and killed in 2012. Hundreds of people participated in the hunt for the five-year-old but her body was never found, and only bone fragments were recovered. Mark Bridger was arrested and eventually convicted of her abduction and murder. Read our special report ten years on from the unimagineable tragedy here.

The expert also assisted with the case of Scottish serial killer Peter Tobin, sentenced to a whole life order at HM Prison Edinburgh for three murders committed between 1991 and 2006. Peter and his company assisted police to search serial killer Peter Tobin's former home in Scotland, in 2007. They were trying to find the remains of missing schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton.

The 15-year-old schoolgirl had disappeared in 1991. Searches of the loft found a dagger concealed in the rafters which contained the DNA of Vicky. This linked Tobin to her murder.

Peter was primarily brought in to the search for Nicola due to his work with sonal technology. His first experience with the technology was in 1998, when he travelled to the US to conduct research on using side scan sonar and ground penetrating radar to help locate missing people and remains. Since then, he has pioneered the use of the technology to search remote locations and underwater to locate human remains.

A published author, he makes regular appearances on TV, radio and podcasts to talk about missing person cases and has helped to launch a water safety campaign with the father of six-year-old Lucas Dobson who drowned in the River Stour in 2019. As well a forensics expert, he is also a qualified commercial diver, helicopter and fixed-wing pilot and holds both UK and United States FAA pilot’s license.

How was he involved in the Nicola Bulley case?

The forensic search expert was brought in by friends and family to search for missing mum-of-two Nicola Bulley during the second week of the search. After three days of searching the River Wyre, Peter described the case as "baffling" and the most "unusual" case he has investigated in his 25 years in the job.

Peter Faulding, pictured centre, begins aiding the search for missing mother of two Nicola Bulley in the waterways of St Michael’s on Wyre village in Lancashire. (James Maloney/LancsLive)

On Wednesday night, his specialist team pulled out of the search, saying they felt they had done all they could. Mr Faulding said his team "categorically" do not think the missing woman is in the section of the river where detectives believe she fell in.

He said: “We’ve done very thorough searches all the way down to the weir. Police divers have dived it three times, extremely thoroughly. That area is completely negative – there is no sign of Nicola in that area. The main focus will be the police investigation down the river, which leads out to the estuary. 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 told reporters that he believes it is “unlikely” that she has been swept out to sea, adding: “My personal view is that I think it is a long way to go in a tidal river.”

Read next:

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.