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Nicola Bulley’s partner, Paul Ansell, said he believed the discovery of his partner’s mobile phone could be a decoy. Mr Ansell also described the day Ms Bulley, 45, went missing in a wide-ranging interview which aired on Channel 5 on Friday (February 10).
Ms Bulley was reported missing on January 27 while walking her springer spaniel, Willow, along the River Wyre at St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire.
Her mobile phone was discovered by another dog walker on a bench, along with Willow’s lead. The device was still logged into a work call when it was found, according to Lancashire Police.
Mr Ansell told Channel 5: “We always felt that the mobile phone and the harness could possibly be a decoy. Again, we don’t have evidence.”
To which Mr Walker replied: “But these are things that you naturally would think about because the Team’s call was still active at the time, wasn’t it? … I’m sure these are things that constantly you are thinking about.”
Mr Ansell said: “Of course it is. I mean, the only thing we’re bothered about is finding her. Nothing else matters.”
Ms Bulley’s disappearance sparked a huge police search which has gripped the nation and is now in its third week.
Here are three things we have learned from Mr Ansell’s appearance on Channel 5.
READ ABOUT NICOLA BULLEY’S DAUGHTERS’ HEARTBREAK
A ‘local’ could be responsible
Mr Ansell suggested in the broadcast his belief someone who lives locally could be behind Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
He told Dan Walker: “People don’t just vanish into thin air. It’s absolutely impossible. So something has happened.
“Whatever has happened, in my eyes, has to be somebody who knows the local area. You would only know that area. It’s a local area.”
He continued: “You see the same faces every single day and on the very odd occasion when you see somebody that you don’t know, they stand out like a sore thumb.”
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‘Gut instinct’ she is not in river
Mr Ansell said it is his gut instinct Ms Bulley is not in the River Wyre and he wants to keep “all options open” about her disappearance.
Lancashire Police is continuing to search the River Wyre towards the sea at Morecambe Bay, working on one theory Ms Bulley, from Inskip, could have fallen in.
The search has involved specialists and divers from HM Coastguard, mountain rescue, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, sniffer dogs, drones and police helicopters.
Mr Ansell said: “We’ve always been very careful that we don’t want to say, ‘Oh, we think it’s that’, and then push that when it might not be.
“The most obvious thing, of course has always been the river. It’s always been my gut instinct and her sister’s, and family that, that isn’t the case. Extensive searching, as you know… has gone on in that river.”
Partner expected to be under police spotlight
Mr Ansell countered claims made online that he had something to do with Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Lancashire Police has ruled out the involvement of a third party, but online trolls still targeted Mr Ansell, claiming he has something to do with it.
Mr Walker asked: “There’s been a lot of publicity around Nikki’s disappearance and I suppose you are one of those stories that is very much talked about on social media.
“I don’t know whether you’ve read the stories, accusations, all the theories that are out there. Does that upset you or are you happy that people are talking about it, trying to find a solution?”
Mr Ansell replied: “It would be upsetting, but only if I let myself read it all.”
He added: “Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some stuff. Most people have been amazing, [but] you’re always gonna get that two percent of people that, for whatever reason, say and do not very nice things, but I don’t want to give any energy to that.
“My energy is just finding Nikki. I read one [post] that said the police need to look at the partner and I was sort of like, ‘Yeah, that’s the first thing that they did’. Of course it is. I knew that that would happen on the first day. I expected that.”
His comments come as Lancashire Police appeared to call out social media sleuths for their “hurtful abuse of innocent people” in relation to the case.
The force said speculation about Ms Bulley’s fate by “so-called experts” is “damaging” to the investigation. Lancashire Police wrote on Twitter: “We continue to see hurtful abuse of innocent people, including witnesses and local businesses.
“There is also a huge amount of commentary from so-called experts and conspiracy theories which are damaging to the investigation and, worst of all, to Nicola’s family. It must stop.”
Impossible to shield daughters
Mr Ansell said it is impossible to protect his young daughters from what has happened and the best thing he can do is reassure them the best people in the world are searching for their mummy.
He told Mr Walker: “It is impossible. As any parent knows, all you want to do is make everything better for your children.
“Whenever they’re worried or they are scared or anything like that you just you want to make it better for them and I can’t.”
He added: “The only thing that I can do is tell them that everybody is looking for mummy.
“The best people in the world are looking for mummy, just to give them that, you know, that level of hope that they can understand that everything that can be done is being done.”
Anyone with information which could help the investigation should call 101 quoting log 0565 of January 30. For immediate sightings call 999.
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