'Shabby and suspicious red van' seen near Nicola Bulley disappearance

Second witness claims they saw ‘shabby and suspicious red van’ in area where Nicola Bulley went missing as police hunt continues

  • The mother-of-two vanished from St Michael’s on Wyre on Friday, January 27
  • Lancashire Police still working on the theory that Ms Bulley fell in the River Wyre
  • But it has admitted possibility she left the area by one path not covered by CCTV 

A second witness has claimed they saw a ‘shabby and suspicious’ red van near where Nicola Bulley went missing.

The vehicle was reportedly spotted close to the mother-of-two’s walking route on the morning she went missing.

It was then apparently seen parked in a lane, just yards from the school where the 45-year-old had dropped off her young children on January 27.

Lancashire Police is still working on the theory that Ms Bulley fell in the River Wyre, despite extensive searches of the water over the last week.

However, the force is said to be considering developments now more than one person has come forward over the van sighting.

Nicola Bulley, pictured with partner Paul Ansell, has been missing since Friday, January 27

The search for the missing mother-of-two has now led police to the sea in recent days

Friends of Nicola Bulley hold missing person appeal posters along the main road in the village in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire

READ MORE: Nicola Bulley’s missing two hours: Detectives probe mystery gap between mother’s disappearance and first call to police – as three key CCTV blind-spots are identified 

A man in his 50s described the van to the Sun as a high-sided Renault or Transit in a faded red.

The witness said: ‘It was a shabby looking van, an older model, the kind you can live or work in.

‘It was on a quiet lane near a barn, with a couple of houses dotted around.

‘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.’

Another man is also said to have spotted the vehicle and alerted police. 

It comes as friends of Ms Bulley will gather for another roadside appeal two weeks on from her disappearance.

Members of the local community will stand by the road in the Lancashire village of St Michael’s on Wyre with banners and placards featuring her photograph, in a plea to ‘bring Nikki home’.

Friend Emma White told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday: ‘The local community are coming out again today to just raise that profile, trying to jog anybody’s memory, dashcam footage of Garstang Road, which is just outside of the village of St Michael’s on Wyre, just by the bridge that you go over.

‘It is quite a key part of the village so people would remember going over it. Did they see anything?

‘We’re out with banners, we’ve got placards of Nikki’s face, we’ve got a moving eight-foot LED board with her face on it with the message ‘Bring Nikki home’.

‘We just need Nikki home for her two beautiful little girls who need their mummy.’

Lancashire Police is still working under the hypothesis that she slipped into the water and drowned

A CCTV image of Ms Bulley wearing a long dark jacket and boots prior to taking her two young children to school was released earlier this week

Paul Ansell, 44, pictured with diving expert Peter Faulding, who told the anxious father ‘she’s not here’, during a third extensive day of searching along the River Wyre in Lancashire on Wednesday

READ MORE:  Now police looking for Nicola Bulley issue blanket 48-hour dispersal order in village where mother went missing after amateur sleuths started searching abandoned house along river at centre of mystery

The focus of the police search has now shifted from where Ms Bulley vanished to further downstream, towards where the River Wyre empties into the Irish Sea at Morecambe Bay.

A dinghy with two officers on board could be seen on the water on Thursday, while an orange rescue boat was also spotted appearing to do sweeps of the river off Knott End-on-Sea, at the mouth of the bay, around 10 miles from where the mortgage adviser’s phone was found on a bench, still connected to a work call.

Ms White said the search had been ‘like torture’.

She told the Today programme: ‘It is just a rollercoaster, it is almost like torture – the despair, the unimaginable frustration in the sense that everyone has come together, working so hard: the police, the community, people on the ground.

‘You expect to be rewarded for when you put hard work in, so we just need something, anything, a piece of information that can lead us down a different inquiry.’

Lancashire Police have dismissed any suggestion Ms Bulley is a victim of crime and say the scale of the missing person inquiry is ‘unprecedented’, involving 40 detectives and following 500 lines of inquiry.

Multiple searches of the ‘hot-spot’ area near the bench, the suspected ‘entry point’ of where Ms Bulley went into the water, have been conducted by police divers and underwater search experts.

Ms Bulley’s family called in help from Peter Faulding, of Specialist Group International, but after a three-day search earlier this week, no trace of Ms Bulley was found.

Mr Faulding said his searches confirmed Ms Bulley was not in the section of river searched by his team and police divers, but described himself as ‘baffled’ after ending his fruitless search.

Police officers walk past the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found shortly after her disappearance

This is the area police have been searching for almost a fortnight but there is no sign of Ms Bulley

Ms Bulley pictured with her dog Willow during a walk. She was walking her pet when she went missing two weeks ago

Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell has described the ‘perpetual hell’ the family is suffering as they await news, with her daughters asking: ‘Where’s mummy?’

Meanwhile, police were given extra powers to break up groups causing a nuisance in the village amid reports of people travelling into the area and filming properties on social media.

The order will remain in place for 48 hours and gives officers the power to disperse anyone committing anti-social behaviour.

Officers had previously warned members of the public not to ‘take the law into their own hands’ by breaking into empty or derelict riverside properties to try to find Ms Bulley.

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