UK

Community ‘in shock’ over Nicola Bulley’s disappearance – as friends strive to protect daughters

The daughters of Nicola Bulley are asking “where is she and is she coming home?”, a friend of the missing dog walker has told Sky News.

People gathered at St Michael’s Church in Lancashire on Sunday to light candles for the mother-of-two as her family, friends, and search teams continue searching for the 45-year-old mother, who has been missing since 27 January.

Speaking to Sky correspondent Katerina Vittozzi, Jill Peck said: “It’s hard for them, they’ve got all the same emotions as everybody else and they want to see their mum, and they don’t know where she is.”

The church is just a few minutes walk from the primary school where Ms Bulley dropped off her children, aged nine and six, on the morning she went missing.

“We’re Nikki’s friends but we’re all a group of mums,” Ms Peck said, “most of our children all attend the same school.”

In an attempt to “keep things as normal as possible for the kiddies,” Ms Peck said pre-planned events, like a school disco on Friday night, have gone ahead, with Ms Bulley’s children attending.

“If something was in the diary, it’s been kept in the diary,” Ms Peck said, “they are aware that something is happening but we’re trying to keep it away from the school.”

“They just desperately want her home and that is all they are asking all the time is ‘where is she and is she coming home?'”

She continued: “And everybody just wants to be able to give an answer, which we can’t do obviously which is probably the most difficult thing.”

‘They are just a lovely family’

Meanwhile, Reverend Andrew Wilkinson told Sky News’s Midlands correspondent Lisa Dowd that the local community is “in shock” over Ms Bulley’s disappearance, but “hope is what is keeping everyone going” as the search to find her continues.

He said much of the younger community attended church on Sunday, as well as family and friends of Ms Bulley.

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‘This is a tremendous shock to all of us’

The vicar said Ms Bulley’s family “want to try and keep as good a profile as possible”.

“It encourages us all in our searching and all the endeavours that we do here. They are just a lovely family,” he said.

Rev Wilkinson added that the family “thoroughly enjoy the level of support” they have been receiving.

“And it is remarkable actually what is being achieved here and the profile that it has,” he said.

“They still are looking for and hoping for that good news.”

Officers believe Ms Bulley, 45, fell into the River Wyre while she was walking her dog.

But her family and friends have claimed there is “no evidence whatsoever” behind the police’s theory.

Police speak to ‘key witness’

Earlier, police said they had spoken to a “key witness” who was seen pushing a pram on Friday 27 January, when Ms Bulley went missing.

The woman was spotted on CCTV walking in the Lancashire village of St Michael’s on Wyre at around 8.22am.

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Retracing Nicola Bulley’s journey

She was again seen walking just under 20 minutes later at 8.41am.

In a statement, Lancashire Police said: “Earlier this evening, as part of our search for Nicola Bulley, we put out an appeal to find a witness in St Michael’s on Wyre.

“We are pleased to say that the woman came forward very quickly and we must stress that she was very much being treated as a witness and was one of many people in St Michael’s on Friday, January 27th.”

Read more:
What were missing dog walker’s movements before she disappeared?

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Officers continue to look for Nicola Bulley

Ms Bulley was last seen walking her dog on a footpath by the River Wyre.

Police are focusing their investigation on a crucial 10-minute window when the mortgage advisor’s movements are unaccounted for between 9.10am and 9.20am.

‘Too soon for condolences’

Friends and family told Sky News correspondent Katerina Vittozzi it was “too soon for condolences”, and say they are not ready to accept the police’s theory that Ms Bulley fell into the river.

They have now set up a community search hub at the village tennis club, where people are invited to take a map of the local area and try to help.

Read more:
Nicola’s girls are ‘really missing her’, friend reveals
Signs and placards displayed in the streets to find missing mum-of-two

Specialists and divers from HM Coastguard, mountain rescue and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service have been deployed to assist the search, in addition to sniffer dogs, drones, and police helicopters.

A team of detectives has been working to analyse telephone communication, house to house enquiries, CCTV, dashcam footage and other digital enquiries, police said.

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