The final images of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley were released by her family yesterday as the mystery over her disappearance stretched into a tenth day.
Filmed from her Ring doorbell, they show the mortgage adviser putting her springer spaniel Willow into the back of her Mercedes SUV before taking her daughters – aged nine and six – to school.
Images of the pony-tailed mother kitted out for exercising her pet on a muddy winter’s morning ahead of a day working from home show a scene replicated up and down the country that day.
But after Ms Bulley was last seen by a fellow dog walker around 40 minutes later on Friday, January 27, there has been no trace of what happened to her next.
Lancashire Police insist their ‘main working hypothesis’ is that the 45-year-old slipped into the River Wyre in the Lancashire village of St Michael’s-on-Wyre, possibly after an ‘issue’ with Willow. Since her disappearance, her family has been joined by well-wishers from miles around to help in the search.
Among them was mother-of-two Clare Brown, 36, who had come from Blackpool. ‘I just wanted to do my bit so that the family knows they’re not alone,’ she said. Grandmother Ann Forrest, 72, of Fleetwood, said: ‘It’s a real mystery what’s happened to her.’
Members of Ms Bulley’s family were among more than 100 locals who lit candles at the village church, which dates back to the 1200s and which she passed on her final walk. ‘We will not let the darkness overcome us,’ said the vicar, Reverend Andrew Wilkinson.
He said the family were regular worshippers and helped decorate the church before Christmas. The community was focused on ‘making sure the family knows they are completely supported and they are not on their own’, he added.
Meanwhile, friends attacked ‘vile speculation’ on social media on topics ranging from Ms Bulley’s relationships to the family finances. On Friday, police said they were ‘as sure as we can be’ that Ms Bulley did not walk away from the riverbank where she was last seen. But Mr Ansell, a 44-year-old engineer, refused to accept that theory, saying: ‘We need her home, we will not entertain any other outcome – we need a happy ending to this nightmare.’
Ms Bulley’s younger sister, Louise Cunningham, insisted there was ‘no evidence whatsoever that she had gone into the river’ and stressed there is ‘no evidence’ that the ‘strong swimmer’ was swept away and have urged people to continue searching for her. Friend Natalie Downes rejected the theory Ms Bulley had been trying to retrieve Willow’s tennis ball, saying she had stopped taking it on walks.
Family friends last night released a poignant audio clip of Ms Bulley’s six-year-old daughter Sophia who, along with nine-year-old sister Harriet, has been asking where her mother is. Sophia is heard saying: ‘Them helicopters, they’re looking for Mummy.’