Nicola Bulley: The mysterious case of missing dog walker who 'vanished into thin air'

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Police are still searching for Nicola Bulley, the woman who disappeared while taking her springer spaniel Willow for a walk.

The disappearance of Nicola Bulley has been at the forefront of all of our minds for the past three weeks and police are still going to great lengths in a bid to find new evidence in this case. Despite extensive search efforts, Ms. Bulley has still not been located.

Who is Nicola Bulley?

According to the Guardian, Nicola Bulley is a 45-year-old mother of two and mortgage adviser, originally from Essex but now resident in Inskip, a small village in Lancashire. She was known for frequently walking her brown springer spaniel, Willow, and sharing photos of their walks on social media.

Ms. Bulley's partner, Paul Ansell, has described the situation as a 'perpetual hell' for the family. Speaking to broadcasters, he said:

'We’re never going to lose hope, but right now it’s as though she vanished into thin air, it’s just insane… It’s like a dream, I can’t get my head around it.'

What were her last-known movements?

According to the Mirror, the first sighting of Nicola on the morning she went missing (27 January 2023) was via a doorbell camera. The camera saw her open the boot to the family car and let her dog Willow into the back. She left her home at 8:26 a.m.

She then drove 3.8 miles to her children's school in St Michael's. She dropped her two daughters off at school by 8:40 a.m.

After Nicola dropped her children off at school, she was walking her dog Willow along the path by the River Wyre off Garstang Road near the village of St Michael's. She was walking towards the gate and bench on the lower field, at 8:43 a.m. She was seen by a dog-walker who knows her at 8:47 a.m., walking around the lower field next to the river.

At 8:53 a.m. Nicola sent an email to her boss. Then, at and at 8:59 a.m., she sent a message to a friend. She logged onto a Microsoft Teams call at 9: 01 a.m. and she stayed logged in past 9:30 a.m. when the call ended.

But the last time she was seen by another person was at approximately 9:10 a.m. when a witness who knows her saw her on the upper field. Lancashire Police believe Nicola went missing in a 10-minute window shortly after this.

Nicola's phone was found on a bench at approximately 9:33 a.m., by a witness who didn't know her. Telephone work by police has confirmed that the phone was placed on the bench at 9:20 a.m.

Her dog Willow was also found near the bench and was dry. This led investigators to believe that Willow had not been in the water. Willow's lead and harness were also found by a member of the public, reports the Independent.

What are the police saying?

Lancashire Police first issued a description of Ms. Bulley and the clothing she was wearing on the morning she went missing, characterizing her as a 5 ft 3 white woman with light brown shoulder-length hair wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans, and olive green ankle wellington boots. Superintendent Sally Riley said initially:

'We know that Nicola going missing has caused a great deal of concern for the wider local community, as well as obviously being an awful time for her family.'

Superintendent Sally Riley stated that the main 'working hypothesis' is that Ms. Bulley has fallen into the river, and there is no third-party or criminal involvement. However, the investigation has been hindered by baseless theories and abusive messages from amateur sleuths online, and the force has faced criticism for the slow progress of the investigation.

Alcohol issues

On 15 February, Lancashire Police unexpectedly revealed for the first time that the missing woman had suffered 'significant issues with alcohol' and was classed by police as a high-risk missing person.

The decision to release the insight proved controversial, however, with members of the public denouncing the move as 'victim blaming' and that such a level of personal information is relevant to the investigation.

© L.Pichuk

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