Nicola Bulley: Diving expert Peter Faulding defends team’s effort in search of missing mum
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A diving expert who searched the river for missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley has defended his team’s efforts after a body was found near where she disappeared. Peter Faulding, head of Specialist Group International, led a team of experts and divers to help Lancashire Police in searching the river with specialist sonar equipment.
He previously said he did not believe the 45-year-old mortgage adviser was in the water, despite police reiterating that was their primary hypothesis. However, divers discovered a body on Sunday (February 19) in River Wyre following a tip-off from walkers. While it has not yet been formally identified, Nicola’s family has been notified.
Breaking his silence on Monday (February 20) following the discovery , Mr Faulding released a statement on Facebook, maintaining his belief that Nicola did not fall in the river near where she was last seen.
He said: “Although identification has not been formally confirmed I would like to say my thoughts are with the family and friends of Nicola Bulley at this very difficult time.
“The SGI underwater search team was tasked with searching the river upstream of weir in the non-tidal part of the river, past the bench where Nicola’s phone was found and a mile upstream past this point.
“For three days, using high frequency side scan sonar, we thoroughly searched the riverbed and can categorically confirm that Nicola was not laying on the riverbed on the days that we searched.
“We did search the stretch of river where Nicola was found for four hours on our first day and then upstream past the weir on the subsequent two days. The police underwater search teams and land search teams were searching for three full weeks and were also unable to find Nicola.
“Unfortunately it was a member of the public that made a grim discovery, unconfirmed as yet to be Nicola. Sadly, the discovery was not found in the river but in the reeds at the side of the river which was not part of our remit as the side scan sonar does not penetrate reeds above or below the water.”
Mr Faulding also said his team was not involved with the riverbank and wade search, which he described would be the only way to search the area for the missing mum. He said the difference between the two search areas has “caused a lot of confusion” and “unfair criticism” towards himself and his team.
He added: “My previous comments saying that if Nicola was in the river, I would find her, still stand. My team and I at SGI did all we could to assist this family with only our best intentions.
“I am sure I can say this of everyone who has been involved in this difficult search.
I did not volunteer my services, my equipment or my team for any limelight or publicity, I simply wanted to lend extra resources to help a family in despair and this was supported by Lancashire Police.
“However, there has been unprecedented media and public interest in this case and at every turn, I was asked for an update on my own search, which I provided with only best intentions Support for my assistance and my actions have been overwhelmingly positive although I am aware of that some negativity has been towards myself and my team.”
Lancashire Police previously issued a statement detailing the mother-of-two’s alcohol problems, sparked by her ongoing struggles with the menopause..The widely criticised statement was issued mere hours after the police force disclosed Nicola was considered a high-risk missing person due to "specific vulnerabilities".
He said his team was not passed this information during their search, which would have changed their search strategy. He added: “This is an awful case and I just wish it had been handled a lot better in the first place by giving certain information that would have helped us target that search in specific areas.”