Dive expert Peter Faulding told Nicola Bulley‘s partner and sister they had to face the possibility that she mum-of-two was targeted and taken. Mr Faulding, who led a search of the River Wyre near where Ms Bulley was last seen, said he had the “blunt conversation” with her loved ones on Thursday.
Recalling his conversation with Ms Bulley’s partner, Paul Ansell, Mr Faulding said: “I told him I had to be completely frank with him and that he needed to confront all options, hard though it was.
“Nicola was a pretty lady. She was a creature of habit and she could have been targeted and taken.”
Lancashire Police have ruled out a third party’s involvement in the disappearance of Ms Bulley, who went missing on January 27 while walking her springer spaniel, Willow, along the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Willow was found by another dog walker while Ms Bulley’s mobile phone and her dog’s lead were discovered on a bench by the Wyre. The dog’s harness was found on a nearby riverbank.
Mr Faulding added: “The sort of information we’ve got here is a mobile phone on a bench, but we don’t know anything else. I’m glad, really, that we haven’t found Nicola because I didn’t want to recover another dead body.
“It just opens it up, is she alive, is she dead? Did she go in the river or didn’t she? And I can’t say one way or another. I’m baffled by it and I think most people are .”
Search teams from Lancashire Police and the Coastguard, including divers, have this week been focusing on the 10 miles or so of river downstream of the bench, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Supt Sally Riley of Lancashire Police described the search as “unprecedented”.
Police urged people on Friday to stop indulging in commentary and conspiracy theories about Ms Bulley’s case.
The force wrote on Twitter: “We continue to see hurtful abuse of innocent people, including witnesses and local businesses.
“There is also a huge amount of commentary from so-called experts and conspiracy theories which are damaging to the investigation and, worst of all, to Nicola’s family. It must stop.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ansell told Channel 5 in an emotional interview that the family is going through “unprecedented hell”.
He described Ms Bulley as “fun”, “loving”, “the most loyal friend you could ever have” and an “exceptional mum” who “absolutely adores” their children.
Mr Ansell told 5 News: “She’s just a pillar of strength to our family and without her, the hole is bigger than you can possibly imagine.”
Police on Tuesday rejected suggestions Ms Bulley could have been a victim of crime.
Supt Riley said every single, potential suspicion or criminal suggestion which had come in, had been looked at by detectives and discounted.
She said:[E]very single potential third party line of inquiry and potential suspicious or criminal element has been looked at and discounted. It does remain our belief that Nicola suddenly fell into the river and that this is a missing persons inquiry.”
Anyone with information which could help the investigation should call 101 quoting log 0565 of January 30. For immediate sightings call 999.