Police say they believe a mother of two who vanished a week ago while walking her dog may have fallen into a river.
Nicola Bulley’s dog and mobile phone were found on the banks of the River Wyre in Lancashire last week.
In an update this afternoon, Superintendent Sally Riley of Lancashire Police said police do not believe Ms Bulley was the victim of a crime, and that she fell into the river.
She said speculation about other theories around her disappearance were distressing for her family, and that it was simply a tragic missing persons case.
Supt Riley said it was investigators’ “working hypothesis” that Ms Bulley had not left the area in which she was last ween, and accidentally entered the river, and that they had discounted other lines of enquiry.
It came after the partner of the missing mother-of-two said he will “never lose hope”, one week on from her disappearance.
Paul Ansell said he “cannot get his head around” how the 45-year-old had vanished, and said his focus was on staying strong for their two daughters.
Ms Bulley was last seen walking her dog near the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, last Friday morning.
Speaking near the scene where Ms Bulley was last seen, Mr Ansell told broadcasters: “Every single scenario comes to a brick wall. Every single one of them.
“All we are doing is sitting there going round and round and round through each scenario.”
He added: “We’re never, ever going to lose hope, of course we’re not, but it is as though she has vanished into thin air. It’s just insane.”
The 44-year-old said his “whole focus is my two girls” and that he was “hoping to goodness” that people would come forward with new information following an interview with Ms Bulley’s parents and sister on Thursday.
On Friday morning, members of the local community stood by the side of the road holding signs bearing Ms Bulley’s photo, urging people to contact police with information.
Mr Ansell said the support from the community had given the family “a great amount of comfort”.
Ms Bulley’s friend, Emma White, told the BBC: “Seven days on, such a tough milestone today for all the family and friends.
“We’re out in force today. We’ve had banners made, placards with her face, so the idea is that seven days on there might be someone that’s passing today that passed last Friday, that might be able to shed that glimmer of hope we need.”
She added: “They are the most close-knit family. Those poor girls asking questions, ‘where’s mummy, how is mummy’.”
A potential witness, a dog walker, who was traced following a police appeal on Thursday, said she had spoken to officers and “doesn’t know anything”.
Christine Bowman, 67, told the Daily Mirror: “It has made local women fearful. If they have husbands or partners, they have been taking the dogs out instead.”
Lancashire Police, who have launched a huge search operation, said that despite “unanswered questions”, people should not “speculate or spread false rumours” about the disappearance.
Ms Bulley, 45, a mortgage adviser from Inskip, Lancashire, vanished while walking her dog after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school last Friday morning.
She was last seen at 9.10am and she had logged on to a work Teams call, which ended at 9.30am with her still logged on.
Her mobile phone and the lead and harness for her dog, springer spaniel Willow, were found on a bench close to the River Wyre in the Lancashire countryside.
A lead and harness belonging to the dog and a mobile phone belonging to Ms Bulley were found on a bench along the towpath approximately 20 minutes later. Her phone was still connected to a Microsoft Teams conference call she had joined at 9.01am that morning with her employer, Exclusively Mortgages.
The call was muted and she did not have her camera on, company director Ben Pociecha has since told The Daily Telegraph.
Lancashire Police have said they do not believe any crime has been committed and are treating the incident as a missing person inquiry.