When did Nicola Bulley go missing? Full timeline as divers return to river
Looking back on the disappearance of Nicola Bulley, plus a timeline of the day she went missing and the hunt to find her
Police have returned to the spot where the body of missing Nicola Bulley was found as part of efforts to work out how she died.
Bulley vanished on 27 January while walking her dog in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Following an extensive police search of the local area and river, her body was discovered by dog walkers more than three weeks after she went missing.
Read below for a timeline of Nicola Bulley's disappearance:
These are Bulley's last movements, as pieced together by police.
Bulley, from Inskip, Lancashire, walked along the path by the River Wyre, having dropped her daughters, aged six and nine, off at school.
A dog walker who knows Bulley saw her in the lower field along the river. Their two dogs interacted briefly before the witness left the field via the river path.
Bulley sent an email to her boss.
Bulley logged into a Microsoft Teams work call.
A witness who knew Bulley saw her on the upper field along the river walking her dog.
The Teams call ended but Bulley remained logged on.
Bulley's phone and her dog were found at a bench by the river by another dog walker.
Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Constabulary said police were “keeping a really open mind about what could have happened”, and that they were not treating Bulley’s disappearance as suspicious.
Lancashire Constabulary deployed drones, helicopters and police search dogs as part of the major missing person operation.
Bulley’s parents, Ernest and Dot Bulley, spoke to The Mirror about the “horror” they faced over the possibility of never seeing her again.
Her father told the newspaper: “We just dread to think we will never see her again, if the worst came to the worst and she was never found, how will we deal with that for the rest of our lives?”
Bulley’s family appealed to the public for help tracing her.
Speaking with Sky News, her sister Louise Cunningham said: “There has got to be somebody who knows something and all we are asking is, no matter how small or big, if there is anything you remember that doesn’t seem right, then please reach out to the police.
“Get in touch and get my sister back.”
Officers from the North West Police Underwater and Marine support unit searched the area close to where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found, while police divers scoured the River Wyre.
Bulley's partner Ansell, speaking to broadcasters near where she was last seen, said: "Every single scenario comes to a brick wall. Every single one of them. All we are doing is sitting there going round and round and round through each scenario."
Bulley’s sister, Louise Cunningham, reportedly urged people to “keep an open mind” over her disappearance and said the police's theory about Bulley falling into the river was "just a theory."
Officers launched an appeal to trace a woman seen pushing a pram in the area near where Bulley went missing, describing her as a "key witness".
New images of Bulley loading her car the day she disappeared were released.
Police and friends condemned "vile speculation online" over Bulley's disappearance.
Friend, Tilly Ann, posted on Facebook: "I can't sit back anymore and not act with regards to the hurt and distress that is being caused by some very inappropriate comments."
She posted a number of clarifications about her friend's disappearance noting "Nicola is an incredibly strong swimmer."
A team of private underwater search experts, who offered their services free of charge, joined the police operation to find Bulley.
After searching three or four miles of the river the group's leader, Peter Faulding, said he did not believe she was in the river.
He said the slow-moving water meant if she was in the river her body wouldn't have moved much, but he added: "This is the most baffling case I've ever worked on."
The police reiterated their belief that Bulley fell into the river and also released new images of her the day she went missing.
Tuesday, 7 February
A larger area of the river was searched by police and Faulding, who said he was "very surprised" Bulley had not been found.
The police held a press conference and said they still believed Bulley had fallen into the river but noted they were investigating all possible leads.
Supt Riley said they identified 700 vehicles that drove through the village around the time of Bulley's disappearance and were approaching all of them.
She added that thousands of pieces of information had been received from members of the public, with a team of 40 detectives currently investigating approximately 500 different lines of enquiry.
The search for Bulley extended towards the sea after police and diving experts found no evidence that she fell into the river.
Meanwhile, police admitted Bulley "could have left the area with someone". However, they reiterated their main working theory - that she fell in the river - based on the fact there had been no sightings of her leaving the area.
Faulding tells reporters that the team will stop searching for Bulley.
The search for Bulley was extended to the Lancashire coast, around 10 miles downstream from the bench where Bulley’s mobile phone was found.
It also emerged that police had been given the power to break up groups causing a nuisance in St Michael’s on Wyre amid reports of people coming into the village and filming properties for use on social media.
Faulding called for a wider land search of the area, saying he was "totally baffled" by the disappearance of the mortgage advisor.
He said he was convinced Bulley did not fall into the river and claimed he has video "proof", saying a clip of the River Wyre shows it to be slow-moving, meaning her body would have sunk "very quickly" and remained nearby.
In an interview with Channel 5, Ansell said: "There has to be a way to find out what happened, there has to be. You cannot, you cannot walk your dog down a river and just vanish into thin air. Something happened that day, something."
He went on to say: "Personally, I am 100% convinced it’s not the river, that’s my opinion."
Ansell said he thought someone who knew the area might know what happened to her.
He added: “Whatever has happened in my eyes has to be somebody who, who knows the local area, who knows that. And the fact that nothing’s been seen or heard, I just truly believe that it’s something in the village.”
Lancashire Police held a press conference over the case and revealed that the mother-of-two was classed as a “high-risk” missing person immediately after she was reported missing, due to “vulnerabilities.”
Later that day the team disclosed Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and perimenopause and faced an immediate backlash, with people accusing them of "victim blaming".
In a statement released through Lancashire Police, Bulley’s family responded to the backlash and said the focus had become “distracted from finding Nikki, with more and more speculation and rumours into her private life” and called for it to end.
They said some information about her mental state, and the fact that police had attended an incident several weeks prior to her disappearance, was known about in the local community and that people had been threatening to sell stories to the media, so they had agreed for police to share it.
Lancashire Police then referred itself to the police watchdog over contact the force had with Bulley prior to her disappearance.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman demanded an “explanation” for the disclosure of Bulley’s private information by the force.
Lancashire Police announced it was conducting an internal review into the handling of Bulley’s disappearance and the Information Commissioner said he would ask the force questions about the disclosure of personal information.
Braverman met with police leaders to discuss the handling of the investigation after Rishi Sunak also expressed “concerns” about the revelation.
Lancashire Police announced they had found a body, which had been discovered by a dog walker a mile from the spot where Bulley was last seen.
The body is confirmed as Bulley's. The family release a statement criticising some members of the press and public of an appalling intrusion into their private lives.
Footage of police divers back at the spot where Bulley's body was found is shared on YouTube.
Lancashire Police confirm that they are "carrying out some work on the direction of HM Coroner".