Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, who is leading the search for Nicola Bulley—who has been missing for 20 days after vanishing while walking her dog beside a River Wyre in the north of England—has stated that “false information, accusations, and rumours” from the public have “distracted” the police. Bulley, 45, was last seen on the morning of Jan. 27 as she walked her cocker spaniel, Willow, beside the river in Lancashire, after dropping her two young daughters off at a primary school in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre. Lancashire Police originally said they were working on the assumption Bulley had “gone in the river”, however police divers and a specialist team led by Peter Faulding, a forensic search specialist, have scoured the riverbed and failed to find her body.
Assistant Chief Constable of Lancashire Police, Peter Lawson, stated there was still no evidence of “a criminal aspect or third party involvement” in Bulley’s disappearance. News bulletins and newspapers in Britain have been dominated by the disappearance of the part-time mortgage adviser and the case has attracted enormous speculation from armchair detectives on social media. Detective Smith expressed appreciation for the public’s help in the investigation, but also noted that they were being “inundated with false information, accusations, and rumours, which is distracting us from our work.”
Bulley lived with her partner, Paul Ansell, and their two children in St Michael’s on the Wyre. Earlier this week Ansell told Channel 5 his “gut instinct” was that she had not fallen in the river and said, “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.” When asked about Ansell, Smith said it was normal for any missing person investigation to “gather as much information at an early stage about the person in question, which is no different and we did that with Paul.”
Smith referred to “TikTokers playing private detectives” and claimed to have found Bulley’s glove on the riverbank, but later said it was not believed to be relevant to the investigation. She also mentioned there had been a number of “persistent myths” about the case circulating on social media, including references to an empty house on the other side of the River Wyre from where Bulley went missing. Smith and Lawson also revealed for the first time Bulley had some “individual vulnerabilities” which had led the police to assess her as a “high risk” missing person on the day she went missing.
Smith went into great detail about the work police have done to check CCTV footage from the area, and stated that her working hypothesis is, at the moment, through all the information that they have gathered, that the likelihood is that Nicola has unfortunately gone in the river. However, she stressed that she cannot be 100 percent certain of that at the minute because they are continuing the investigation, and there is always information coming in.