A woman described as a “key witness” by police searching for missing mother Nicola Bulley has come forward, as the force warned against “totally unacceptable” speculation and abuse on social media.
On Saturday, officers released CCTV images of a woman, dressed in a yellow coat and pushing a pram, who was in St Michael’s on Wyre on the morning of 27 January, when Bulley was last seen.
In an update on its Facebook page, Lancashire constabulary said the woman had come forward “very quickly”.
The police added: “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. Our enquiries to find Nicola are extensive and will include speaking to as many members of the public as possible.”
“The speculation and abuse on social media aimed at some people who are merely assisting our enquiry is totally unacceptable.
Police believe Bulley went missing in “a 10-minute window” while she was walking her dog, Willow, close to the river after dropping off her daughters – aged six and nine – at school.
Bulley had logged in to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am, which ended at 9.30am with her phone still connected to the call.
She was seen by another dog walker at 9.10am – the last known sighting – and police traced records of her mobile phone as it remained on a bench overlooking the river at 9.20am. It was found by a dog walker at about 9.35am, with Willow nearby.
Search teams from Lancashire constabulary are continuing to trawl the River Wyre, working on the hypothesis that the missing mother of two, from nearby Inskip, could have fallen in when she disappeared.
However, Bulley’s sister has urged people to keep an open mind about her disappearance as the search enters its ninth day.
She wrote on Facebook: “Off the back of the latest police media update, please can I add there is no evidence whatsoever that she has gone into the river, it’s just a theory.
“Everyone needs to keep an open mind as not all CCTV and leads have been investigated fully, the police confirmed the case is far from over.”
Bulley’s friend Emma White also cast doubt on the police’s theory. “When we are talking about a life, we can’t base it on a hypothesis – surely, we need this factual evidence,” she told Sky News.
“That’s what the family and us are all holding on to, that we are actually no further on than, sadly, last Friday. We still have no evidence, and that’s why we’re out again in force.
“You don’t base life on a hypothesis.”
Police earlier released a detailed timeline of Bulley’s last movements, as follows:
8.43am: She walked along the path by the River Wyre, having dropped her children off at school.
8:50am (approximately): A dog walker – somebody who knows Bulley – saw her walking around the lower field with her dog. Their two dogs interacted briefly before the witness left the field via the river path.
8.53am: She sent an email to her boss.
9.01am: She logged into a Teams call.
9.10am (approximately): A witness – somebody who knows Bulley – saw her on the upper field walking her dog, Willow. Work is ongoing to establish exactly what time this was.
9.30am: The Teams call ended but Bulley stayed logged in.
9.35am (approximately): Her mobile phone and Willow were found at a bench by the river by another dog walker.
Anyone with information or footage has been asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of 30 January.
PA Media contributed to this report