Nicola Bulley’s partner today insisted that she ‘is coming home’ and that he can’t ‘think of any other option’ as he launched a fresh appeal to find her and the search for the missing mother hits the two-week mark.
Paul Ansell spoke in a special programme on Channel 5 on Friday, issuing a fresh appeal for anyone with information to come forward, saying that ‘nothing’ about the situation feels real – and he believes something must have happened to his partner ‘in the village’ of St Michael’s on Wyre.
Paul Ansell said he is ‘100 percent’ sure that the mortgage advisor, 45, did not fall in the River Wyre in Lancashire during an interview filmed for ‘Vanished: Where is Nicola Bulley?’ by Channel 5 and ITN Productions.
Lancashire Police were invited to appear on the programme but declined to do so.
Nicola Bulley, a mother of two, disappeared two weeks ago while walking the family’s dog along the River Wyre. She was last seen at 9.10am by a fellow dog walker.
Paul Ansell, right, pictured with his partner Nicola Bulley – who vanished two weeks ago while walking her dog near the River Wyre in Lancashire
Mr Ansell today declared ‘something happened that day’ as the search for the missing mother hits the two-week mark. He is pictured walking with Dan Walker and Willow the dog
Mr Ansell, accompanied by Nicola’s beloved spring spaniel Willow, was interviewed by 5 News’s Dan Walker (right)
Her partner said on Friday he believes ‘something [happened] in the village’ of St Michael’s on Wyre’, and it did not involve her falling into the river – while friend Emma White added it was ‘torture’ not knowing where she was.
He said the river path, which Ms Bulley walked often, was ‘about as well known a walk to us as you could possibly do’, adding: ‘On the very odd occasion when you see somebody that you don’t know, they stand out like a sore thumb.
‘So whatever has happened, in my eyes, has to be somebody who knows the local area. And the fact that nothing’s been seen or heard, I just truly believe that it’s something in the village.’
Mr Ansell’s theory is in direct contradiction to the stance of Lancashire Police who say Ms Bulley most likely fell into the cold water while wearing two heavy coats and drowned. After searching the river, they have begun looking out to sea in Morecambe Bay.
Leading underwater searchers have publicly stated they do not believe Ms Bulley is in the river after conducting extensive searches.
Speaking to 5 News’s Dan Walker as part of the programme, aired at 9pm tonight, Mr Ansell vowed to ‘never let go’, adding: ‘Nikki would never give up on us ever. She wouldn’t give up on anybody. And we’re not going to ever give up on her, we’re going to find her.’
He described his partner as a ‘pillar of strength to our family’, adding that without her there is a hole which ‘is bigger than you can possibly imagine.’
Mr Ansell described the morning before Ms Bulley disappeared and said he even took beloved dog Willow back to the scene to see if she would provide any hints as to where his partner went.
On January 27, the family followed their morning routine and the only thing which was different was that it wasn’t quite as rushed to get the children off to school.
‘Nothing was out of the ordinary, everything was normal.’
He described how it was Ms Bulley’s turn to drive their children and walk dog Willow, usually returning home at 10am ‘at a push’.
At 10.30am, Mr Ansell said he became increasingly worried and called her mobile several times, but received no answer, leading him to ‘get a bit panicky.’
He changed clothes and was about to rush down to the river when his daughters’ school’s receptionist rang him, and informed him Willow and Ms Bulley’s phone had been found on a bench near the river.
He told Dan Walker: ‘I knew straight away that it wasn’t normal’, adding that he became ‘extremely concerned’ knowing Ms Bulley would not have left Willow alone in the field.
‘I know that never in a million years would she leave Willow. Willow is like our third child.’
Mr Ansell said: ‘People don’t just vanish into thin air. It’s absolutely impossible. So something has happened. Something has happened. Find out what it is.
‘You cannot walk your dog down a river and just vanish into thin air.’
Mr Ansell’s full interview will appear on ‘Vanished: Where’s Nicola Bulley?’ at 9pm on Channel 5 tonight
Lancashire Police’s working hypothesis has long been that Ms Bulley (pictured with her partner) ended up in the water after she mysteriously vanished from St Michael’s on Wyre on January 27
Mr Ansell said: ‘I want every house, every garage, every out building, the land scrutinised. I want it all searched. I want it all scrutinised, every piece of it’
Mr Ansell described searching for his partner with help from the members of the public, before being interviewed by police.
He said: ‘I cannot fault the police in any of this. They have been incredible’.
But he repeated that he and Ms Bulley’s family do not believe she fell into the river given that no trace of her has been found, adding the phone and harness at the scene could ‘be a decoy’.
‘I’m personally, I’m a hundred percent convinced it’s not the river. The only thing we’re bothered about is finding her, nothing else matters.’
Mr Ansell said: ‘We’ve always been very careful that we don’t want to say, ‘oh, we think it’s that’, and then push that when it might not be.
‘The most obvious thing, of course has always been the river. It’s always been my gut instinct and her sisters, and family that, that isn’t the case.
‘Extensive searching, as you know is probably well aware has gone on in that river.’
Peter Faulding said the River Wyre was ‘searched thoroughly by police divers on the day’ and that his own subsequent searches had also turned up nothing.
The river was around two feet high at the edge on the day of her disappearance, and was barely moving, Mr Faulding said. He added he did not believe she was in the river, and that if she had simply fallen down the bank: ‘She could have just stood up’.
Ms Bulley had dropped off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school and was on her usual walk when she disappeared, her phone – still connected to a call for her job as a mortgage adviser – was found on a bench overlooking the river.
Despite a huge search of the river and surrounding countryside by Lancashire Police, no trace of her has been found.
Speaking about his partner, Mr Ansell went on: ‘She is fun. She is loving. If you’re friends with her, she’s the most loyal friend that you could ever have.
‘With Nikki, what you see is what you get. There’s no hidden, nothing’s hidden.
‘You know, it’s all. That’s, that’s her. And she is an exceptional mum and she absolutely adores our girls. And goes above and beyond.’
Discussing the impact of Ms Bulley’s disappearance on his two daughters, Mr Ansell said: ‘Any parent knows that all you want to do this is make everything better for your children’. He added: ‘But I can’t do that’.
He is instead focussing on keeping the worst of his worry at bay when he is with his daughters and attempts to distract them as much as possible.
He said: ‘The only thing that I can do is tell them that everybody is looking for mummy. The best people like in the world are looking for mummy, just to give them that you know that that level of hope that they can understand that everything that can be done to find mummy is being done.
‘And I just have to hope that that is enough, you know, for them, to sort of put them at rest at that particular moment before the questions come again.’
Making a personal plea to Lancashire Police and the public, Mr Ansell said: ‘I want every house, every garage, every out building, the land scrutinised. I want it all searched. I want it all scrutinised, every piece of it.
‘Anything, no matter how tiny, just please just come forward with it. Please. Because that could be the key to finding her and as a family, we are not bothered about anything else. There’s nothing else. We just have to find her.’
‘That hope and that positivity in me is stronger than ever. And I’m never ever going to let go. Nikki would never give up on us, ever. She wouldn’t give up on anybody. And we are not going to ever give up on her, we’re going to find her.’
‘She’s going to come home. I can’t let myself think of anything else. There’s no other option in my head.
‘As a family, we’re not bothered about anything else. We just want to find her.’
He also thanked police and the public for their efforts to help find the missing mother.
In a statement released on Friday, police said they are keeping an ‘open mind’ about her disappearance, and in a marked softening of their language said they still believe the missing mother ‘may have’ fallen into the river.
But ex-Metropolitan Police Officer Mark Williams-Thomas said on the programme he was ‘really struggling’ with Lancashire Police’s attitude towards the search and its media policy.
He said: ‘We shouldn’t be here. The police should be here in a Watchdog-style programme appealing for evidence.’
He added there are three theories they should have been looking at from the beginning: ‘She walked off, she was taken or she fell in the water.’
A police Search and Rescue team in Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire, on the southern side of Morecambe Bay, as police continue their search for Nicola Bulley
A police Search and Rescue team in Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire, on the southern side of Morecambe Bay this morning
An RNLI lifeboat was deployed on the water earlier today in the hunt for the missing mother
Search teams in a dinghy were out on the water this morning looking for the missing mother
Lancashire Police released a statement on Friday saying they are keeping an ‘open mind’ about Ms Bulley’s disappearance, but they added ‘there is absolutely nothing in all the extensive enquiries we have made that suggests anything untoward has happened.’
It read: ‘Throughout this investigation we have been keeping an open mind about what might have happened to Nicola, and we continue to look at all the potential scenarios to eliminate them. We are reviewing our decisions regularly.
‘Based on all the work we have done up to now our belief remains that Nicola may have fallen into the river for some reason, but we are continuing to investigate all possible leads, and this involves viewing CCTV, Dashcam footage and speaking to people who are providing us with information.
‘It remains the case that at the present time there is absolutely nothing in all the extensive enquiries we have made that suggests anything untoward has happened or that there is any third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance, but the investigation is ongoing.’
The force added: ‘Our priority throughout this investigation has been on finding Nicola and providing answers for her family. They continue to be supported and regularly updated by specially trained officers.’
Nicola and Paul have been together for 12 years and have two children together.
He said they had often spoken about getting married: ‘That was always the plan. We talked about it again seriously at the beginning of 2020.
‘And then obviously the whole covid thing hit which just, I mean, everybody’s life was just thrown up into the air. We still did talk about it, but then it was like, once this is over, we’ll do it then.’
Friend Emma White told the programme: ‘You can’t put into words the rollercoaster we’ve been on. The heart-ache, the torture, the disbelief, washed down with this immense hope.’
She said: ‘We’re just waiting for and hoping for that good news. She’s touched the nation hasn’t she. Everything you see and a little bit more is what she’s like inside.
‘She’s the stuff that dreams are made of.’
Ms White was adamant she was determined to bring Ms Bulley home: ‘We have to do everything to bring Nikki home and bring her home for [her family]. We need to bring Paul and the girls their rock home, their Nikki home.’
She added: ‘That community near and far has united, it’s been fundamental in raising the profile of Nikki’s disappearance.
I’d like to thank every single one of you, family, friends, strangers, it’s the simple acts of kindness.’
Friend of Nicola Heather Gibbons said: ‘It’s the not knowing, is she somewhere safe? Is she scared? The goal is to have her safe with her family.
‘It’s an agonising wait, it’s almost a hell above hell, because the unknown is unbearable.
‘So, this morning at 10 o’clock we just opened the church for people to come and to light a candle, just to have a chance to come, a space to collect their thoughts, to be together.
‘It’s not a vigil in that we’ve lost hope, it’s almost trying to create that moment of hope for everybody to keep supporting one another.
‘We just needed a space to be able to think and pray and collect our thoughts for the family and for Nikki.
‘There’s been a lovely little turnout of people who just wanted to come and have that moment.
‘The family are on the worst rollercoaster of their lives, they are still holding on to hope, that there’s a chance we will get Nikki home safe.
A Nicola Bulley candlelit vigil is being held today in the local church as the hunt continues
Friends of missing Nicola Bulley hold missing person appeal posters along the main road in the village in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire
The 45-year-old mother-of-two was last seen on January 27. Today her friends and family took to the street in a desperate hope to try and ‘jog the memory’ of anyone who may have seen her
‘They have the same thinking that nothing is making sense. They are just desperate for some evidence that will pinpoint exactly what has happened.’
Ms Bulley vanished while walking her springer spaniel dog Willow, alongside the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre on January 27.
Focus of the police search on Thursday switched from St Michael’s to around 10 miles downstream where the river empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay, with police patrol boats and rescue boats spotted on the river and in the bay.
It came as a diving expert – who led the hunt for the missing mother – claimed he has video ‘proof’ she did not fall into the river.
The mother-of-two, 45, vanished while walking her dog Willow, at around 9.10am on January 27.
Detectives believe she slipped into the River Wyre and drowned. But her loved ones have questioned this theory, saying there is ‘no evidence whatsoever‘ she fell into the body of water.
World-renowned forensic diving expert Peter Faulding – who has worked on hundreds of cases with police – says a clip shows the river is slow-moving meaning her body would have sunk ‘very quickly’ and remained near to where she fell in.
The 60-year-old also claimed she could have simply ‘stood up’ if she had fallen in as rocks by the bank would have only been under 2ft of water at the time.
The group home someone will have seen her alive
People are being urged to call police if they have any dashcam footage from the time she vanished
Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen two weeks ago on the morning of Friday January 27, when she was spotted walking her dog on a footpath by the nearby River Wyre
Friends of missing woman Nicola Bulley hold missing person appeal posters along the main road in the village in St Michael’s on Wyre
Ms Bulley pictured with her dog Willow during a walk. She was walking her pet when she went missing two weeks ago
Peter Faulding, a diving expert, was drafted in to help find Ms Bulley and has today insisted a video showing the slow-moving waters of the River Wyre ‘proves’ she could not have fallen in
Speaking of the video footage, Mr Faulding added: ‘The log stayed at that point for 20 minutes, and it actually spiralled and went up six feet and came back to the same place.
‘The river on the day was slightly higher – it was about a foot higher – but I’d be very surprised in my experience [if she was there] as a body usually goes to the bottom very quickly.
‘If Nicola slipped down the bank, she would have landed in about 2ft of water but onto rocks, and she could have stood up.’
Peter, who runs Specialist Group International (SGI), led a sonar search for the Nicola in the river, which flows from the Forest of Bowland to Fleetwood and into the Irish sea.
But the group later called off its search, with the expert insisting they had done all they can to find the missing mother.
Mr Faulding has now called on the force to carry out a ‘wider land search’ of outbuildings and sheds.
On Wednesday, Peter took Nicola’s shattered partner Paul Ansell to the bench where their dog, and her mobile phone, were found on the day she vanished.
And the diving professional, who has solved hundreds of cases, said Paul now believes ‘Nicola has not gone in that river’ 13 days after she was last seen.
But the lack of a body raised hopes that she might still be alive.
A clip revealing a barely-moving log on the water, shows Nicola’s body would have likely sunk ‘very quickly’ and remained nearby if she’d gone in, forensic dive expert Mr Faulding claims
He said: ‘He’s very upset and he was in tears yesterday. He’s very emotional, obviously.
‘He was shocked at how shallow the rocks were yesterday. He thought it was really deep there. If she had gone in she would have landed on the rocks.
‘The family thanked us for being here. They said ‘You’ve given us confidence now’ and his belief is that Nicola has not gone in that river.’
Peter added: ‘We’ve gone about a mile upstream, which is way up the search area, and ruled there is nothing in that section of the river.
‘If you start putting the pieces of the jigsaw together, it’s very strange, and it would need an extremely strong current on the day to take her so quickly over the weir before the police arrived.
‘And if she was floating, she would have been seen by the public, or landed elsewhere – and there’s just no sign of this poor lady.’
Lancashire Police is still working under the hypothesis the mortgage advisor slipped into the water and drowned.
Two boats with specialist police teams are now searching the coast off Morecambe Bay, around 20 miles from where Nicola was last seen, with police suggesting finding her ‘in the open sea becomes more of a possibility’.
This week it emerged Investigators could be trying to trace a ‘tatty’ red van parked near to where the mother-of-two vanished two weeks ago, after a witness reported it to police on two occasions.
Detectives are also probing a two-hour gap between Nicola’s disappearance and the first call to police to report her missing – as it emerged three key CCTV blindspots had been identified.
The first call about her disappearance did not come until 11am – leaving a near two-hour window between her last sighting and officers beginning their search.
Police admitted she could have left the area via a path not covered by cameras.
A map of the area showing the location of the broken camera, the path leading to Garstang Road that is not covered by CCTV (top right circle) and a riverside path leading from the Wyreside Farm Caravan Park through to the A586 (left circle)
This is the area police have been searching for almost a fortnight but there is no sign of Ms Bulley
A group of men from Liverpool were apparently dispersed by police as they tried to search this property
The path in question leads to Garstang Road, which runs through the village, and is therefore a blindspot.
Officers have been attempting to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who passed along the route at the time of her disappearance.
Aside from the river itself, there are only two other exits from the area, one of which is covered by CCTV.
Friends of the missing mother have claimed that CCTV covering the other exit, close to mobile home site Rowanwater, is not working.
This camera would have covered the fields to the south of where Ms Bulley was last seen.
After reviewing other CCTV footage from within the mobile home site, police are confident that Nicola did not leave the field near the river via Rowanwater itself.
Another blindspot is a riverside path leading from the Wyreside Farm Caravan Park through to the A586.
Police officers walk past the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found shortly after her disappearance
Paul Ansell, 44, pictured with diving expert Peter Faulding, who told the anxious father ‘she’s not here’, during a third extensive day of searching along the River Wyre in Lancashire on Wednesday
A camera at a house close to the path is also understood to have not been working at the time, but did not cover the exit regardless.
Today it emerged that a private security firm had started patrolling the village where Ms Bulley went missing to stop amateur sleuths from making TikTok videos as they try to solve the investigation.
Spencer Sutcliffe Security are carrying out daily and nightly patrols in St Michael’s on Wyre after an influx of people from outside the village descended on the area.
Several people have already been confronted by the uniformed security guards from the Lancaster based company.
The security guard owner – who is providing his services for free – said: ‘When the residents rang me I thought what an awful situation.
‘They’ve already got the horror of what’s happened, plus nobody knows what’s happened and then they’ve got all these people trampling through their gardens, going through their sheds.
A police Search and Rescue team retrieve their boat after searching the banks of the River Wyre
‘When they’re approached by some of the residents they’re becoming very aggressive towards them and it’s just not nice.
‘So I’ve offered our services for free, I’ll pay the staff out of my own pocket, and we’re just going to try and give the residents a bit of reassurance that there’s people out there looking after them, and work alongside the police – we’re not trying to replace them in anyway, but unfortunately, the police are understaffed and underfunded.’
Nicola is white, 5ft 3ins tall, with light brown shoulder-length hair. She speaks with an Essex accent.
She was last seen wearing a long, knee-length black quilted gilet with a hood.
She had a black Engelbert Strauss coat underneath which had long sleeves and came to her waist.
She was wearing tight black jeans and had long green walking socks tucked into her jeans. She was wearing size 5 ankle-length green wellington boots from Next.
Paul Ansell’s full interview will appear tonight on ‘Vanished: Where’s Nicola Bulley?’ at 9pm on Channel 5.