Nicola Bulley update as search expert Peter Faulding speaks of tensions with Lancashire Police ahead of inquest
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Peter Faulding, CEO of Specialist Group International (SGI), helped search the River Wyre in St Michael’s after Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her dog on the morning of January 27.
He was tasked with searching a stretch of the river where police believed Ms Bulley, 45, had fallen into the water, close to a riverside bench where her phone and dog were later found.
Faulding and his team used state-of-the-art sonar to search the river free of charge for four days at the request of Nicola’s family, but were unable to find any trace of her.
His working relationship with Lancashire Police became strained after the 60-year-old underwater search specialist appeared on national television and told viewers he did not believe her body was in the river.
He described Miss Bulley's disappearance as ‘strange’ and said that in his 20-year career he had "never seen something so unusual". He said the case left him 'baffled' and said it was “like searching for an invisible person”.
He later faced criticism for fuelling speculation following his many TV appearances in which he repeatedly raised doubts about the police theory that Nicola entered the river, claiming details in the case “don’t add up”.
After an extensive search of the River Wyre, Faulding said that his team were unable to locate her where detectives thought she may have entered the water, saying: "That area is completely negative—there is no sign of Nicola in that area.”
His comments led to a fractured relationship with Lancashire Police, with the force suggesting that such statements had contributed to the spread of ‘misinformed speculation’ on social media.
Ms Bulley’s body was found three weeks later on February 19 among reeds in the river, around a mile from where the 45-year-old mortgage adviser was last seen.
Days after the tragic discovery, Faulding made a high-profile appearance on GB News, telling host Eamonn Holmes: “I categorically confirm that Nicola was not on the river bed, we would have seen her body.
“They all know that and the police know that there was no sign of Nicola on the bottom.
“If Nicola had fallen in at the bench where the phone was found, she would have landed in two feet of water, she would not have drowned at that location.
“I don't believe Nicola went in because the police divers searched that area thoroughly that afternoon and drowning victims go to the bottom, she could not have made it over the weir in a day."
You can read his full comments and watch a video of his GB News appearance here.
His SGI team has since been removed from the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) list of experts after years of assisting police forces around the UK in their search for missing persons.
Mr Faulding later claimed he had been treated like a ‘fall guy’ for his failure to find Ms Bulley in the river, defending his team’s efforts and telling TV viewers that police divers had also failed to locate her in the water.
Peter Faulding speaks out days before inquest
Today (June 23) – ahead of the inquest on Monday (June 26) – Mr Faulding has spoken out for the first time since Ms Bulley’s body was recovered from the River Wyre in February.
In his latest statement he sets out to “clarify questions from the press and public” and states how he has had no contact with Lancashire Police or the coroner tasked with investigating how exactly Ms Bulley came to her death.
Statement of Mr Peter Faulding, CEO of Specialist Group International (SGI).
“Our thoughts are with Nicola’s family and close friends, and we hope that the upcoming inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley provides the answers they are seeking and deserve.
"SGI were called to assist in the search for Nicola Bulley by Lancashire Constabulary following a request for SGI by the family.
"SGI; headed up by Peter Faulding, are proven specialists with decades of relevant experience in underwater search.
"SGI operates an array of technologically advanced and cutting-edge equipment; our work is always carried out to the highest professional standards with honour and integrity and always in the best interest of the families involved putting their concerns first.
"Over the years, Peter and the team at SGI have located many missing persons and vital evidence bringing closure, relief and dignity to the deceased, their families, and friends whilst providing evidence for official investigations at the same time.”
“To clarify questions from the press and public”
He continues: “Since leaving the scene at St Michaels on Wyre on 9th February 2023, SGI or Peter Faulding have had no contact with Lancashire Constabulary.
"Regarding this case, SGI or Peter Faulding have not been requested to provide copies of the relevant side scan sonar search data, search reports, photographs or notes made at the scene and from the time spent with members of the family, friends, and police officers from Lancashire Constabulary.
“Furthermore, SGI or Peter Faulding have had no contact with HM Coroner. SGI or Peter Faulding have not been requested to attend the inquiry or submit any evidence or statements for the inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley.
“Importantly, our thoughts remain with Nicolas’s family and friends. We do not wish to intrude on their grief at this difficult time.
"Our hope is that their privacy is respected, and their wishes are put first as they go through the difficult period of the coroner’s inquest.
“SGI and Peter Faulding will make no further comments.”
The inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley will take place at County Hall, Preston on Monday (June 26) and Tuesday (June 27) next week.