Phone left on bench where Nicola Bulley disappeared 'could be a decoy'

The phone and dog harness found on the bench where Nicola Bulley vanished could be a ‘decoy’, her partner has suggested

The mum-of-two disappeared while walking her springer spaniel dog Willow alongside the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre on January 27.

Speaking to 5 News presenter Dan Walker, Paul Ansell said he wants to keep ‘all options open’ about her disappearance.

He had been at home making a cup of tea, preparing for a working day, when he heard of her disappearance.

Paul told Dan: ‘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.’

Paul also spoke about the possibility Nicola fell into the River Wyre and how there were ‘many areas’ which could hinder the movement of a body.

He told Dan: ‘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 sisters, and family that, that isn’t the case.

‘Extensive searching, as you know is probably well aware has gone on in that river.

‘We always felt that the mobile phone and the harness and everything, it could, it could possibly be a decoy.’

Nicola had dropped off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school and was on her usual walk when she disappeared, her phone – still connected to a call for her job as a mortgage adviser – was found on a bench overlooking the river.

Despite a huge search of the river and surrounding countryside by Lancashire Police, no trace of her has been found.

Speaking about his partner, Paul went on: ‘She is fun. She is loving. If you’re friends with her, she’s the most loyal friend that you could ever have.

‘With Nikki, what you see is what you get. There’s no hidden, nothing’s hidden.

‘You know, it’s all. That’s, that’s her. And she is an exceptional mum and she absolutely adores our girls. And goes above and beyond.’

He added: ‘She’s just a pillar of strength to our family and without her, the hole is bigger than you can possibly imagine.’

Focus of the police search on Thursday switched from St Michael’s to around 10 miles downstream where the river empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay, with police patrol boats and rescue boats spotted on the river and in the bay.

Family and friends of Nicola have questioned the police theory that she probably fell into the water while walking her dog, after dropping her children off at school on January 27.

And the underwater search expert called in to help look for her said the case is a ‘complete mystery’ after failing to find any sign of her.

Vanished: Where is Nicola Bulley? was shown on Channel 5 at 9pm on Friday.

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