The officer leading the investigation into the disappearance of says “digital data” shows her phone moved towards the bench area just before the mum-of-two vanished. 

Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith revealed the information at a press conference today as the search Ms Bulley, 45, enters its 19th day since she went missing walking her dog Willow in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancs, on January 27. 

SIO Rebecca Smith said: “We then know from digital data that at some time around 9.20am, we believe that Nicola’s handset had moved towards the bench area. Again there have been questions raised about her phone, whether that would have been in her possesion when whatever has happened has happened.

“But again I’d just like to point out that it’s really normal for Nicola, when in a teams call, to be holding her phone out infront of her listening to it. And we can say from a witness that knows her that morning, that is what she was doing.”

Det Supt Smith said this “explained” why Ms Bulley did not have her phone in her pocket as a “number of people have raised”. She said around 9.33am a local dog walker came across the bench.

Supt Smith said Willow was found untied running between the bench and gate. She said: “The mobile phone is on the bench face upwards, still logged in to the teams call, and Willows harness is halfway between the bench and the riverside.”

On the police search so far, SIO Detective Supt Rebecca Smith said her “main working hypothesis” is still that missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley fell into the River Wyre.

She said: “As soon as she was reported missing, following the information that was provided to the police by her partner Paul, and based on a number of specific vulnerabilities that we were made aware of, Nicola was graded as high-risk.

“That is normal in a missing person investigation with the information we were in possession of. As any senior investigating officer does, you form a number of hypotheses, that is scenarios which are possible from the information to hand.

“Those hypotheses included the one that she possibly could have gone into the river, that there could have been third-party involvement and lastly, that she could have left the area voluntarily.

“Those hypotheses have remained in place throughout, are reviewed regularly.

“At the initial stages based on the information I received, I made it clear that it was my working hypothesis at that time based with all the facts that the main hypothesis I was working on at that time was that Nicola had gone in the river.

“This has been misconstrued in the press and said that that was what I said. I said that was my main working hypothesis at that time, and that remains my main working hypothesis. I think it’s clear to see that the amount of effort, hours worked, resources that we’ve put into this investigation that we have always been open-minded. Those three hypotheses and scenarios have been continually reviewed, and continue to do so to this day.”

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