Witness saw 'shabby' red van close to where Nicola Bulley disappeared

Police investigating the disappearance of Nicola Bulley are looking into reports of a ‘shabby and suspicious’ red van spotted near to where she went missing.

The vehicle was seen close to Ms Bulley’s walking route on the morning she disappeared, parked in a lane near the school where she dropped her two daughters before walking her dog by the river.

It was described by a witness as being a faded red-coloured high-sided Renault or Transit.

The man in his 50s said: ‘It was a shabby looking van, an older model, the kind you can live or work in.’

He told The Sun: ‘Obviously, I don’t know whether this van is related to Nicola’s disappearance. All I know is that something grabbed my attention. I felt compelled to tell police about it.

‘Even though it was down the road, as the crow flies it’s quite close to where Nicola was last seen.’

The witness, who asked not to be named, said he spotted the van in Hall Lane at around 9.40am, saying ‘it looked suspicious but in that moment it didn’t mean anything’.

However, once the timeline of events surrounding the disappearance was released by detectives a few days later he went back over the sighting and ‘thought it might be significant’.

He said the report was logged and that he had ‘spoken to the police a couple of times now’ to follow up and ask for any dashcam footage, adding: ‘They are obviously following up on everything.’

Metro.co.uk has contacted Lancashire Police for comment.

The force has insisted all possible leads are being ‘exhausted’ in the hunt to find the missing mother-of-two.

Superintendent Sally Riley said a team of 40 detectives are working on approximately 500 different lines of inquiry.

More than 700 drivers who travelled through the village of St Michael’s on Wyre around the time the 45-year-old went missing are also being traced.

But Ms Riley said it is still the force’s belief that Ms Bulley fell in the River Wyre.

Giving an update at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, she added: ‘Any information that comes in that indicates otherwise is being checked out all the time and negated as each inquiry comes up.

‘We’re not closed in any way to any particular line of inquiry and we remain genuinely open to that. All these extensive inquiries however have so far not found anything of note.’

Family and friends of Ms Bulley 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.

Peter Faulding and his team, from rescue operation Specialist Group International, have been searching the area around the bench, the ‘entry point’ where it is believed by police Ms Bulley fell into the water.

But he said their three-day involvement ended on Wednesday after a ‘thorough and extensive search of the areas we were tasked with by Lancashire Police’ found ‘no sign of Nicola’.

On what he thinks happened to her, he told said: ‘It’s a total mystery for me, I really don’t know.

‘In all the searches I’ve done, this is one which will stick with me.

‘Normally we get tasked with, you know, searching for a knife or a body and there’s been a witness to a drowning or we’ve got really good intelligence.

‘The sort of information we’ve got here is a mobile phone on a bench but we don’t know anything else.

‘I’m glad really that we haven’t found Nicola because I didn’t want to recover another dead body.

‘It just opens it up, is she alive, is she dead? Did she go in the river or didn’t she? And I can’t say one way or another. I’m baffled by it and I think most people are.’

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