LONDON: Police today extended their search for a missing British mother as friends made a fresh appeal for information, two weeks after her mysterious disappearance.
Search teams, including divers, were scouring the River Wyre for mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, 45, close to where it empties into the Irish Sea in northwestern England.
Bulley was last seen walking along the river on Jan 27 shortly after dropping her two daughters, aged nine and six, off at school.
Her phone was found on a bench still dialled in to a work conference call and her dog was running loose.
Friends meanwhile gathered in the village where she was last seen with posters of the missing mortgage adviser with the message “Bring Nikki home”.
“We just need Nikki home for her two beautiful little girls who need their mummy,” friend Emma White told the BBC as villagers stood by the road in St Michael’s on the Wyre holding the placards in an attempt to jog people’s memory.
Divers from a private company who earlier this week searched the river using hi-tech sonar have questioned the police theory that Bulley fell in and drowned while out walking her dog.
Forensic expert Peter Faulding, chief executive of Specialist Group International, said the equipment used by his firm was capable of seeing “every stick and stone lying on the riverbed”.
He said the river at the spot where Bulley was thought to have fallen was “not moving fast” and that his searches usually resulted in bodies being found within hours.
After his search failed to find any trace of Bulley, Faulding described her disappearance as a “complete mystery”.
Bulley’s disappearance has left her family distraught, said White.
“It is just a rollercoaster, it is almost like torture – the despair, the unimaginable frustration … we just need something, anything, a piece of information that can lead us down a different inquiry (route),” she said.
Police, however, have ruled out foul play and insist the case remains a missing person inquiry.
“Our main working hypothesis, therefore, is that Nicola has sadly fallen into the river, that there is no third-party or criminal involvement and that this is not suspicious, but a tragic case of a missing person,” superintendent Sally Riley said earlier.
Lancashire police yesterday denied that the search was being scaled down.
“People may have seen less police activity today than previously in the area of the river … but that is not because we have stepped down our searches,” they said in a statement.