Friends hope specialist underwater search team SGI will give Nicola Bulley’s family answers
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Private diving team Specialist Group International, led by forensic expert Peter Faulding, arrived in Lancashire in the early hours of this morning and will sweep the River Wyre with sonar today.
Lancashire Police believe Nicola, known to friends and family as Nikki, might have fallen into the river by accident but her family and friends are not convinced, claiming there is still no evidence to support the theory.
Speaking to broadcasters this morning (Monday, February 6), Nicola's friend Emma White said the family had urged Lancashire Police to take Mr Faulding up on his offer to help search the river free of charge.
She said she hopes Mr Faulding and his search team will be able to provide Nicola’s family with some answers 10 days after the 45-year-old disappeared while walking her Spring Spaniel Willow near the River Wyre.
She told BBC Breakfast: “Following the hypothesis of the police that Nicola was in the river, we need some evidence to back that up either way and I feel Peter and his amazing bit of kit … is going to come and sweep the river bed and give us answers.”
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Ms White added: “We hope they uncover nothing, like the police have done for the last 10 days, and we hope Nicola is not in that river.”
“My belief is she’s not in the river at all,” says boss of private underwater search team
Peter Faulding, founder and CEO of Specialist Group International, said the Lancashire force initially declined his offer to help search the river. They later accepted his offer after speaking with Nicola's family, he said.
A forensic search specialist and world leader in underwater search techniques, Mr Faulding said he pioneered the use of side-scan sonar in searches for missing persons underwater in the UK and often helps police forces in south-east England.
Speaking to GB News on Sunday, Mr Faulding said his underwater search equipment is “the best on the market” and his team would be able to tell within a day whether there is a body in the water or not.
Mr Faulding also told broadcasters he does not believe the police theory that Nicola is in the river, saying he would have expected police divers to have found her by now.
Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell and her sister Louise Cunningham have previously stated there is “no evidence whatsoever” that Nicola fell into the water.
"This doesn’t ring right to me”, Mr Faulding told GB News.
“My belief is she’s not in the river at all. I would have expected her to have been found by the police divers by now.
“With the amount of searching going on in this river, I would have thought she would have been found by now,” he added.
Mr Faulding said his team will use high-tech sonar which can see “every stick and stone lying on the riverbed” and said he expects to have some answers by the end of the day.
He told Sky News: “Let’s get this water searched so it can be either confirmed or denied if Nicola is actually in this river.”
He added: “This is a particularly long stretch of river for them (police) to do because they’re doubling up as a dive team as well, so this is a huge task for the police.”
Lancashire Police said the SGI team will be deployed this morning and will work closely with the police search teams. The SGI crews left their base in Dorking, Surrey on Sunday evening and made the 250 mile journey to St Michaels where they will begin their search this morning.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We can confirm we have been approached by SGI who have offered to assist with the search for Nicola Bulley and that offer has been taken up after speaking with Nicola's family.
“Our sole focus is to find Nicola and provide the answers her family so desperately need.
“We are also liaising with experts across national policing to ensure we continue to do everything we can and use every available tactic to find Nicola.”
Lancashire Police have said they do not believe any crime has been committed and are treating the incident as a missing person inquiry.
They believe Ms Bulley went missing in “a 10-minute window” on January 27 while walking her dog, Willow, in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre after dropping off her daughters – aged six and nine – at school.
She logged in to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am. The remote meeting ended at 9.30am with her phone still connected.
She was seen by another dog walker at 9.10am – the last known sighting – and police traced telephony records of her mobile phone as it remained on a bench overlooking the river at 9.20am.
The device was found by a dog walker at around 9.35am, with Willow nearby.
New images, taken from her home’s doorbell camera on the day she disappeared and released by her family, show Ms Bulley loading her car before driving her children to school.
She was wearing a long black coat and her blonde hair was in a ponytail.
Anybody who has seen Nicola, or has information about where she might be, is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For immediate sightings call 999.