A woman described as a “key witness” by UK police searching for missing mother Nicola Bulley has come forward, as the force warned against “totally unacceptable” speculation and abuse on social media.
On Saturday, officers said they wanted to trace a person seen pushing a pram in the area near where the dog walker went missing.
In an update on its Facebook page, Lancashire Police said the woman had come forward “very quickly”.
The force added: “We must stress that she was very much being treated as a witness and was one of many people in St Michael’s on Friday, January 27th.
“Our enquiries to find Nicola are extensive and will include speaking to as many members of the public as possible.
“The speculation and abuse on social media aimed at some people who are merely assisting our enquiry is totally unacceptable.
“We would urge people to remember that we are investigating the disappearance of Nicola, and the priority is Nicola and her family. We want to find her and provide answers to her family.”
Police have been working to the theory that Ms Bulley fell in the river, but her family and friends have questioned that.
The force believes the 45-year-old mortgage adviser went missing in just “a 10-minute window” while she was walking her dog, Willow, close to the River Wyre, after dropping off her daughters – aged six and nine – at school.
Ms Bulley had logged in to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am, which ended at 9.30am with her phone still connected to the call.
She was seen by another dog walker at 9.10am – the last known sighting – and police traced telephony records of her mobile phone as it remained on a bench overlooking the river at 9.20am.
The device was found by a dog walker at around 9.35am, with Willow nearby.
Search teams from Lancashire Constabulary have been trawling the river.
In a Facebook post, Ms Bulley’s sister, Louise Cunningham, urged people to “keep an open mind” as there is “no evidence whatsoever” that the dog walker fell in the river.
“Off the back of the latest Police media update, please can I add there is no evidence whatsoever that she has gone into the river, it’s just a theory,” she said.
“Everyone needs to keep an open mind as not all CCTV and leads have been investigated fully, the police confirmed the case is far from over.”
Ms Bulley’s friend, Emma White, also cast doubt on the police theory, telling Sky News it was based on “limited information”.
“When we are talking about a life we can’t base it on a hypothesis – surely we need this factual evidence,” she said.
“That’s what the family and all of us are holding on to – that we are sadly no further on than last Friday.
“We still have no evidence, and that’s why we’re out together in force.
“You don’t base life on a hypothesis.”
In an interview with The Sun, Ms White said that police were working to get data off Ms Bulley’s Fitbit watch.
“The Fitbit had not been synced since Tuesday,” she said.
“The police are trying other ways to try to get information from it.”
The police search has been aided by specialists and divers from HM Coastguard, mountain rescue, and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service – with sniffer dogs, drones and police helicopters deployed.
Detectives are also working behind the scenes to analyse CCTV and dashcam videos, and members of the public with footage which could be useful have been urged to come forward.
Anyone with information or footage has been asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30.