Missing mother Nicola Bulley’s distraught partner has been trying to gently break the news that ‘Mum is lost’ to their two little girls, aged nine and six.
Ms Bulley’s daughters “cryed their eyes out” as their father, Paul Ansell, tried to comfort them this week while he himself was wracked with fear and grief.
It has now been five days since the mother-of-two disappeared while walking her dog, the Springer Spaniel Willow, on a towpath along the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
The 45-year-old’s phone was found on a nearby bench, still dialed into the business call she was on when she was last seen.
And while Mr. Ansell tries to be “as strong as possible” for the sake of his girls, he has tried to teach them the basics.
His father, David, said: “The children have been told that Mum is missing, but they have not heard all the details,” according to The Sun.
“When they heard that, they absolutely cried their eyes out.”
Ms Bulley’s daughters ‘cried their eyes out’ as their father, Paul Ansell, tried to comfort them this week as he himself was wracked with fear and grief
And Mrs Bulley’s mother said, ‘Paul had to tell the girls what was going on. He just said to them, “Mommy is lost.” It’s heartbreaking.’
Speaking from the family home in Inskip, Lancashire, Mr Ansell said he spent all Sunday looking for his partner of 12 years.
The engineer said, ‘It’s just eternal hell. It’s just utter disbelief. We’re going through this, but it doesn’t feel real.
“All we can say is we need to find her. She has two little girls who need their mama at home. We should get some good news now.’
Kev Camplin, of Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue, sprang into action in the hours after she disappeared, leading a team of 25 trained volunteers to search the immediate area that same day.
He told The mirror: ‘The abandoned house is directly opposite the bank on the other side of the river, over a 3 meter high garden wall. It’s quite chic.
In November, Ms. Bulley posted how bad and spooky the sight was on her dog walk
“We didn’t enter the house, as a volunteer search and rescue team we don’t actually enter buildings. Maybe we go into a barn or something. We leave that to the police.
“While the team was searching the grounds, the owner was there for some reason, and we asked him to go in and he looked around for a second and she wasn’t there.”
The team arrived at the site around 1pm after receiving a midday alert and searched tirelessly until about 8pm.
The revelation comes after Lancashire Police said today they had found a ‘key witness’ who they say could help find the missing mother.
Police said the witness, who was walking a white fluffy dog in the area, is “being addressed at the moment.”
The man “spoke to the woman nearby who found Nicola’s dog near a bench in the field,” police said in an earlier statement.
On the couch, Mrs. Bulley is believed to have left her cell phone on before disappearing on Friday
Ben Pociecha, the managing director of Exclusively Mortgages, said Ms Bulley checked into a team meeting at 9:01am. “It looks like she was muted and didn’t have her camera on. She listened in as she walked her dog,” he told MailOnline.
Many parties were involved. Many people attended the call. The police are investigating the call.’
Mrs. Bulley was walking with Willow in the area, who was later found loose between the river and the bank.
The mortgage adviser has lived in Lancashire for 25 years, but is originally from near Chelmsford, Essex, and has a southern accent.
Nicola’s brother-in-law Stephen Cunningham said: “The whole family, as expected, is struggling to understand what has happened and is unspeakably concerned.”
In a statement, Ms Bulley’s family said: ‘We are overwhelmed by the support of our community and would like to thank everyone for their continued efforts to help us find Nicola. The girls are desperate to have their mummy safely back home and your continued efforts have brought them comfort as we await news of Nicola.
“We’re asking anyone who thinks they have information that could help police find Nicola to come forward and help them with their investigation.”
It came when a post appeared on social media where Ms Bulley shared photos of herself walking her beloved dog Willow close to where she disappeared on January 27.
In it she said, ‘A very foggy cold walk this morning, not a day to forget your gloves! Bit creepy too! However, set me up for the day and Willow had the best time’.
Specialist search teams today combed the River Wyre, off Garstang Road in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancs., and the surrounding countryside in an attempt to locate the mortgage broker.
Villagers also joined the search for Nicola’s mom of two.
Mick Peter, 37, spent his lunch break searching. He said: ‘It affects the whole community. I’ve only come to help. This is a beautiful area popular with dog walkers.
“I walk my dog here every day and I always see other people walking. Someone must have seen something. I hope she comes back safe.’
Mrs. Bulley was walking this dog, Willow, when she was reported missing on Friday
A neighbor said: ‘The family is very close. They are very loving and they will be in absolute pieces. It’s a mystery. They just have no idea where she is.
“We went looking on Sunday and she took the dog there quite often, but the banks of the river can be very slippery.”
She added, “You just don’t know, but I do know that she would never have voluntarily left those kids behind.” The whole family loves it.
“I imagine Nicola was a loving mother. They are the sweetest people you would ever want to meet. I think everyone is devastated because she seemed like the kind of girl who didn’t have a bad leg in her body.
“She was extremely pleasant and homely. She lived for her daughters and Paul. The family will be heartbroken.
Police search a bank along the River Wyre near where the missing mother-of-two was last seen Friday morning
‘Every week her parents go to Nicola’s, pick up their grandchildren and come back here. I can’t imagine what they’re going through and they just have no idea where she could be.
“It upset us quite a bit. Nicola had a nice family and a nice job and she was a lovely person.’
Police are seeking information on her whereabouts. Mrs. Bulley is described as white, 5ft 7in tall, with light brown shoulder-length hair.
At the time of her disappearance, she was wearing a long black hooded gilet, black jeans and olive green ankle boots. Her hair was in a ponytail.
In an update on Monday, police said they are keeping an “open mind” about what happened but do not believe Ms Bulley was attacked.
The police are looking for the missing mother and are concerned about her whereabouts
Mr Ansell said he or Ms Bulley, also known as Nikki, would drop the children aged nine and six at a local primary school before taking Willow for a walk along the river nearby.
Ms Bulley did the school run before going to the dog walker on Friday, police said.
“I got a call from the school about someone finding Willow, Nikki’s phone and the dog leash and harness on the couch,” said Mr Ansell, who then called police.
Chief Inspector Sally Riley of Lancashire Police told the Mirror Ms Bulley’s phone was still engaged when it was found: ‘It was on a conference call and it was still live. It was connected to the conference call and it hadn’t ended.”
The officer told a press conference that the fear of Ms. Bulley grows with the passage of time.
She said: “Police are open to what could have happened, but we believe there is a good chance Nicola is missing and this is not a crime investigation.
‘We have set up a very intensive operation to find Nicola. We have to search a large area. People go missing, but as time goes by, we are obviously more and more concerned about Nicola.
“But we very much hope that we will soon find something to bring her home safe and sound.
“We are calling on anyone who drove through the village of St Michael’s at around 9.15am last Friday morning or who has dash cam footage that may be of use to us, or anyone who may have been walking dogs in the area or on the towpath, to come forward. They can dial 101 or, if they see Nicola, 999.”
Searches have been carried out by Lancashire Police, using a helicopter, drones and dogs with support from the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team and the North West Underwater Search Team.
Local residents have also organized searches in the area.
- Anyone with information can call 101, citing log 473 dated 27 January, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.