Nicola Bulley: 60 police officers examine thousands of leads as the search continues

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Around 60 police officers are involved in the ongoing search for Nicola Bulley, as hundreds of active leads are fully examined in the bid to determine the whereabouts of the missing mum-of-two.

As the operation to find Nicola entererd its 12th day, Superintendent Sally Riley of Lancashire Police outlned that the force had up to 40 detectives working daily to comb through the "enormous" amount of information gathered so far.

Community police, PCSOs and search specialist officers take that number to around the 60 mark. Supt Riley said the senior investigating officers is happy with that number at this stage but the situation is under constant review and others can be brought in to help if necessary.

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Among thousands of leads, police have identified 700 vehicles which were in the area on the morning Ms Bulley disappeared, Friday, January 27, and are in the process of contacting the drivers to request any dashcam footage they may have.

Supt Sally Riley addresses the media.Supt Sally Riley addresses the media.
Supt Sally Riley addresses the media.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Supt Riley said her officers had conducted an "unprecedented" number of inquiries, including information taken door-to-door, calls from the public, CCTV and dashcam, along with data from Ms Bulley's mobile phone and Fitbit device.

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Although the force’s working hypothesis remains that Nicola accidentally fell into the river, Lancashire Police remain "fully open-minded" and have not yet detected a "suspicious element".

Peter Faulding, the head of the specialist underwater search team SGI, which arrived in the area to lend its expertise with the operation, has questioned whether Ms Bulley’s phone being left on a bench might have been a ‘decoy’ involving a third party but Supt Riley said there was no evidence of third party involvement.

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"There could be any number of explanations as to why the phone was left on the bench,” said Supt Riley. “Perhaps for instance Nicola left it to go and tend to her dog, but our inquiries has found no evidence of any third party involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.

"The inquiry team remains fully open-minded to any information that may indicate where Nicola is or what happened to her.

"Any information that comes in that indicates otherwise is being checked out all the time and negated as each inquiry comes up.

"We are not closed in any way to any particular line of inquiry.

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“Our search has not found Nicola in the river and then a re-search in parts by SGI has found the same.

"That does not mean that Nicola has not been in the river.

“In the light of other inquiries being discounted from the investigation so far… clearly our main belief is that Nicola did fall into the river."

Supt Riley said the search of the river would continue out to sea until national experts told the force there was no longer any chance of Nicola being found there. The search also extends out to sea to the area between Knott End and Morecambe.

Members of the public have also been urged to avoid “distressing” speculation about what may have happened to Ms Bulley.

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“We would ask that people in the wider community, particularly on social media and online, do not speculate as to what may have happened to Nicola,” Supt Riley said.

“This is particularly hurtful to her family, to her children, to her partner Paul, to her parents, her sister and her friends because it is not helpful to them, it is distressing and it is distracting for the police inquiry.”

Supt Riley also urged members of the public not to take the law into their own hands in efforts to aid the search.

“There are some properties along the riverside which are empty or derelict and while it may be well-intentioned that people think that that could be a line of inquiry, I would ask them to desist from doing that.

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“In some cases it may be criminal if they are breaking in, causing damage or committing a burglary.

“We have now searched houses matching that sort of profile on the riverbank, including their grounds, with the knowledge and permission of their owners.

“Because there is no criminal evidence yet identified and we don’t expect there to be in this inquiry, then we are not starting to go into houses because that is not where the inquiry is leading us.”

Anyone with information or footage is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30. For any immediate sightings, please call 999. A deducated email address for information has now also been set up at [email protected]