Expert says Nicola Bulley’s loyal dog could hold major clues

Nicola Bulley: 'We're in a difficult position' says Peter Faulding

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Nicola Bulley’s dog would likely have followed her if she had left the area where she went missing, an expert has pointed out. Ms Bulley was walking her springer spaniel Willow in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, before she went missing in a 10-minute window. The dog was found alone near a bench where Nicola’s phone was also found. Dog behaviourist Zoe Willingham said the dog’s behaviour and whereabouts could “give more clues to what happened than we realise”.

When questioned why Willow did not run off, Ms Willingham said a spaniel will usually stay or follow their owner.

She said: “For the dog to be found by the spot where the phone and harness were makes me think that’s where Nicola is/was last seen. If Nicola had left the area I’m sure the dog would have followed unless it had been tied to something such as the bench. “

Ms Willingham said the other “strange” thing was that Willow’s lead and harness were found on the ground close to the bench.

She said: “I would say most dog owners and walkers keep their harness on and just take the lead off. I feel like the dog’s behaviour and the harness may give more clues to what happened than we realise.”

The police have now admitted it is a “possibility” Ms Bulley could have left the area after previously working on the hypothesis that she fell into the river.

Willow appeared “bone dry” when she was spotted close to where Nicola went missing, indicating that she had not been in the river. 

Superintendent Sally Riley said it was “possible” that an “issue” with Ms Bulley’s dog may have led her to the water’s edge but admitted today that she “could have left the area with someone”.

Specialist Group International leader Peter Faulding declared he had been “determined” to find Nicola in the river but that he and her partner Paul Ansell, 44, were “relieved” that he hadn’t. 

Mr Faulding said he was “baffled” after failing to find the mother-of-two.

He said: “Normally we find them, this is an unusual situation.

“And hopefully Nicola will appear somewhere or pop up somewhere, I don’t know.

“But with that, I’m, I’m totally baffled by this one, to be honest.

“Normally a drowning victim goes to the bottom. There was a bit of flow on the river that day. But normally we recover them within a few metres.”

Dog expert Jo Sellers said Nicola’s dog may have stayed in the area because ti is where the “strongest scent” would be, even if Nicola has “left the area”. 

Ms Sellers that the dog may have “ran off for a while” and returned”. 

She said: “If she was really spooked, then she may have run off for a while but she would have returned eventually.

“If she was there all along, then the dog was not scared away by anything.

“But that does not mean something or nothing did happen, it is just that the dog was not spooked away from the scene at the time.”

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