The forensic expert offers to continue the hunt for Nicola Bulley away from the river

Nicola Bulley - Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Nicola Bulley – Peter Byrne/PA Wire

A forensic specialist who has been searching a river for missing dog sitter Nicola Bulley has offered to carry out groundwork for her family.

Peter Faulding, a salvage and forensic search expert, said he was in private consultation with the family about carrying out a land search for the 45-year-old.

Mrs Bulley went missing on 27 January while walking her dog in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre.

As detectives investigated again over the weekend and searched empty properties near where she was last seen, Paul Ansell, her 44-year-old partner, left a tape on a deck with the message: “NIKKI TI I LOVE! XXXXXX COME HOME NOW.

Mrs Bulley’s phone was found on a bench by the river, with the family’s dog, Willow, running free nearby and her harness on the ground. The alarm went off and search operations began.

Police said they believed Ms Bulley fell into the river, but a specialist search party led by Mr Faulding could find no trace of her. In an interview last week, Ansell said he is “100% convinced it’s not the river”.

Mr Faulding, the founder of Specialist Group International, said he was ready to launch a search into the ground, telling The Telegraph: ‘I have offered to go up privately and put my investigative mind into it

“I am visiting in my spare time to discuss looking into other areas without interfering with the police operation. Territorial searches are usually carried out, that’s what the family wants.”

Mr Faulding reiterated his belief that it was unlikely that Ms Bulley had fallen into the river, saying: ‘It wasn’t very fast on the river that day.

“I spent a lot of time with the family and they told me she was so careful, she took the same route every day, she didn’t go near the river and her fitbit shows she doesn’t go near the river. She would have to be pushed very hard to be thrown into the middle of the river.

“There are a lot of strange things here. If it is not found, I would say something is wrong. The police officers called and said they agree with me, this is weird. The police divers are very professional, they would have found her that day. There’s no reason it should disappear. She was happy.”

Charlotte Drake, a friend of Ms Bulley, said it was good police were conducting new investigations, adding: ‘Someone knows something and everyone needs to keep an open mind. We just need a few more pieces to fit into this puzzle, no matter how small.

He also said Ms Bulley’s partner wanted to publicize the fact that her car keys were with her when she went missing.

Lancashire Police were faced with questions about their handling of the investigation and Philip Flower, a former Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, said trust in the police was in danger of being lost forever if the investigation failed.

Writing for The Mail on Sunday, he said officers may have made a mistake in not recording the area where his phone was found. He said he wasn’t the only person to suggest that the facts and evidence didn’t support the official hypothesis.

The officers expanded the CCTV investigation to include the day before Mrs Bulley went missing and requested footage from a local garage. Police were also notified of two men who behaved suspiciously near her dog walking path the day before she went missing.

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