Detectives have found no evidence of a “criminal aspect or third party involvement” in Nicola Bulley’s disappearance during extensive inquiries over the 19 days since she vanished, a police chief has said.
Lancashire Police Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson defended his force’s investigation into the case of the missing mother-of-two at a press conference on Wednesday.
Setting out the details of the probe in more detail than police “normally” would, he said the scale has been “unprecedented”.
Nearly 40 detectives have sifted through hundreds of hours of CCTV, dashcam footage and tip-offs from the public.
And Mr Lawson said: “There is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.”
Detectives have sought to combat disinformation about her disappearance amid growing speculation about what might have happened to her and criticism of the police effort.
They have also been “inundated with false information, accusations and rumours” about Ms Bulley’s disappearance, which are “distracting” them.
Lead investigator in the case, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith spoke of “persistent myths” about the case.
She said: “The derelict house which is across the other side of the river has been searched three times, with the permission of the owner, and Nicola is not in there.
“The red van, we’re really grateful to members of the public for ringing into the inquiry, we wouldn’t have got this far without everyone’s help.
“But it’s also really obvious that we are being inundated with false information, accusations and rumours which is distracting us from our work.”
She said reports of a red van in the area on the morning of Ms Bulley’s disappearance is not being treated as suspicious.
Det Supt Smith refused to give more details of the mother-of-two’s “individual vulnerabilities”.
Referring to Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell, she said: “It’s normal in any missing person investigation that you obviously gather as much information at an early stage about the person in question, which is no different and we did that with Paul.
“I’m not going to go into the details of those individual vulnerabilities. I’ve asked you to respect the family, who are going through unimaginable pain and distress at this moment.
“But those vulnerabilities based our decision-making in terms of grading Nicola as high risk and have continued to form part of my investigation throughout.”
Asked if she hoped to find her alive, Det Supt Smith said: “I hope with all my heart that we find Nicola Bulley alive more than anything.”
Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her springer spaniel, Willow, in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre after she dropped her two daughters – aged six and nine – at school on January 27.
At a press conference on February 3 Lancashire Police first told the public of their “main working hypothesis” that the mortgage adviser fell in the river during a “10-minute window” between 9.10am and 9.20am that day.
The force said her disappearance is not being treated as suspicious.
Her body has still not been found and detectives extended the search for her to the sea on February 3, saying finding her there “becomes more of a possibility”.
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