Nicola Bulley ‘moved towards bench’ just before vanishing

The officer leading the investigation into the disappearance of Nicola Bulley says “digital data” shows her phone moved towards the bench area just before the mum-of-two vanished.

Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith revealed the information at a press conference today as the search for Ms Bulley, 45, enters its 19th day since she went missing walking her dog Willow in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancs, on January 27.

SIO Rebecca Smith said: “We then know from digital data that at some time around 9.20am, we believe that Nicola’s handset had moved towards the bench area. Again there have been questions raised about her phone, whether that would have been in her possession when whatever has happened has happened.

“But again I’d just like to point out that it’s really normal for Nicola, when in a teams call, to be holding her phone out in front of her listening to it. And we can say from a witness that knows her that morning, that is what she was doing.”

Det Supt Smith said this “explained” why Ms Bulley did not have her phone in her pocket as a “number of people have raised”. She said around 9.33am a local dog walker came across the bench.

Supt Smith said Willow was found untied running between the bench and gate. She said: “The mobile phone is on the bench face upwards, still logged in to the teams call, and Willows harness is halfway between the bench and the riverside.”

Also at the press conference, Lancashire Police Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said the force had found no evidence of a “criminal aspect or third party involvement” in Nicola Bulley’s disappearance during extensive inquiries over the 19 days since she disappeared.

He defended his force’s investigation into the case of the missing mother-of-two at a press conference on Wednesday. Setting out the details of the probe in more detail than police “normally” would, he said the scale has been “unprecedented”.

Nearly 40 detectives have sifted through hundreds of hours of CCTV, dashcam footage and tip-offs from the public. And Mr Lawson said: “There is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.”

Detectives have sought to combat disinformation about her disappearance amid growing speculation about what might have happened to her and criticism of the police effort.

Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her springer spaniel, Willow, in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre after she dropped her two daughters – aged six and nine – at school on January 27.

At a press conference on February 3 Lancashire Police first told the public of their “main working hypothesis” that the mortgage adviser fell in the river during a “10-minute window” between 9.10am and 9.20am that day. The force said her disappearance is not being treated as suspicious.

Her body has still not been found and detectives extended the search for her to the sea on February 3, saying finding her there “becomes more of a possibility”.

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