Father of missing mother reveals heartbreaking question her girls ask

‘When is Mummy coming home?’ Father of missing dog walker Nicola Bulley reveals heartbreaking question her children ask which leaves him ‘unable to hold it together’ – as he wonders if there was a chance she was ‘taken’

  • Nicola Bulley, 45, vanished on Friday morning as she was walking pet dog Willow
  • The mortgage adviser – who is a mother of two – left her mobile phone on a bench

The father of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley is struggling to ‘hold it together’ for the sake of his family as the search enters its seventh day.

Ms Bulley was last seen walking her Spaniel, Willow, about 9.15am last Friday along River Wyre in Lancashire, while dialled into a business call.

Ernest, her father, broke down as he told The Mirror of his struggle even being in the same room as his granddaughters, aged six and nine, as they continue to ask questions about their mother’s whereabouts.

‘When I look at the kids, I have to go out of the room because I can’t hold it together,’ he said.

‘They are asking where Mummy is and, when is Mummy coming home? It’s so hard.’

Ms Bulley’s partner Paul tried to gently break the news of her disappearance to their two daughters, who are now confused and continuing to ask their grandparents when she is coming home

Ms Bulley was last seen walking her Spaniel, Willow, about 9.15am last Friday along River Wyre in Lancashire, while dialled into a business call 

The family say the girls were ‘sobbing their hearts out’ when their father, Paul Ansell, tried to explain to them that ‘Mummy is lost’. 

Nicola Bulley called foggy path where she walked her dog ‘spooky’: READ MORE 

‘We don’t know how long we can keep going before they realise. They think Mummy is coming home soon, but if this keeps going on I don’t know what we’re going to say to them.’ 

Ernest and Ms Bulley’s extended family have questioned whether she was taken from the riverbank, given there were ‘no signs’ that she’d slipped or fallen into the water and zero clues as to where she could be.

And Ms Bulley was making plans for the future with her family prior to disappearing last week, they say.

The 45-year-old and her younger sister, Louise, were speaking the night before she vanished, planning a spa getaway and researching treatments they could get their mum, Dot.

Dot, 72, said the sisters are close, adding Ms Bulley had also recently bought tickets to watch her beloved girls perform in choir and an upcoming gymnastics show.

The family have vowed to never give up their search.

Ms Bulley had dropped her two daughters off at primary school in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, at about 8.45am last Friday.

It’s been six days now since the mother-of-two vanished while walking her dog, springer spaniel Willow, on a towpath by the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire

An ‘abandoned’ old house and the surrounding areas have been searched in the hunt for missing mother Nicola Bulley

She then walked Willow to a nearby towpath by the River Wyre but has not been seen since.

Willow was spotted by a woman near a slippery riverbank by a bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found still dialled into her business call.

The dog was ‘bone dry’ meaning that the animal had not entered the water – but appeared to be distressed by something.

Police say they remain ‘open minded’ as to Ms Bulley’s disappearance but insist they do not believe at present she was attacked.

READ MORE: Last known movements of Nicola Bulley who was still connected to a work call when she disappeared on towpath after dropping her kids off at school


Rescuers have so far focused their efforts on a tidal stretch of the river amid fears she may have fallen in and been washed out towards the coast at Fleetwood, some nine miles away.

Friends of Ms Bulley say that the doting mother would have never willingly left her family.

Ernest, 73, and Dot, 72, said Ms Bulley’s disappearance is out of character and revealed they asked police if ‘there is any chance’ she has been abducted. 

It was also noted Ms Bulley was in good spirits leading to her disappearance.  A friend said she was ‘laughing and joking’ with two others, potentially the last people to see her before she vanished.

Asked about their daughter’s state of mind in recent days, the couple said there had been absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

She had no health problems that they knew of and was enjoying her job.

The night before she vanished, her parents were looking after her daughters while Ms Bulley took a business call. She was ‘upbeat’, having had recently secured a new client at work. 

Of that final encounter, Ernest said: ‘I said we better go now and Nicola came to the front door, and I gave her a kiss and told her I loved her and that was the last conversation I had with her.’

Rescue teams have scoured the area near Garstang Road in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire for clues over the 45-year-old’s mysterious disappearance.

While the river is just 18 inches deep in some areas, the section where Ms Bulley’s phone was found is near a sign which reads: ‘Danger – deep water’. 

A local told MailOnline: ‘I know the woman who found Willow. She said the dog was near the river bank and close to the bench that Nicola’s phone was found.

‘Willow was bone dry and so hadn’t been into the water but the dog was in an agitated state.’

The search continues in St Michaels on Wyre for Nicola Bulley, who was last seen on Friday morning

Ernest noted there was ‘no sign’ of someone slipping or falling into the river – leading the family to question if someone has taken her,

READ MORE: Friends fear Nicola Bulley ‘slipped down steep and muddy riverbank’ while walking her dog


He added: ‘I asked the sergeant from Fleetwood a few days ago, ”Is there any chance of her being taken?” and she said, ”I don’t think that’s the case”.

The 73-year-old was not entirely convinced by the response as the location his daughter went missing in is ‘such an isolated area’. 

‘We just dread to think we will never see her again, if the worst came to the worst and she was never found, how will we deal with that for the rest of our lives.’

The couple, who are joint owners of a freight transport company, have split their time between caring for their grandchildren, Nicola’s two young daughters, and looking for their own daughter. 

Ms Bulley’s mother Dot said the nights were the hardest.

She told The Mirror: ‘Our worst time is when it gets dark. We find it really hard to think about wondering ‘Is she OK’ and ‘Where is she?”

Even though police have assured the family they’re working on it ’24 hours a day’, Dot and Ernest ‘wake in the night and can’t get back off to sleep’ as they’re wracked with fear. 

Mr Ansell tried to gently break the news that ‘mummy is lost’ to their two little girls, aged nine and six, at the weekend. 

Ms Bulley’s daughters ‘cried their eyes out’ as Mr Ansell tried to console them while stricken with fear and grief himself.

Rescue teams scoured the area near Garstang Road in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire for clues over the 45-year-old’s mysterious disappearance last week

A search dog from Lancashire Police and a crew from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service search the River Wyre for missing woman Nicola Bulley

And while he is trying to be ‘as strong as possible’ for the sake of his girls, he has tried to explain the basics to them.

His father, David, said: ‘The children have been told, ‘Mummy’s missing’, but they haven’t been told the full details,’ according to The Sun.

‘When they were told, they absolutely cried their eyes out.’

READ MORE: Girls aged nine and six ‘cried their eyes out’ after their distraught father had to tell them ‘mummy’s lost’

And Ms Bulley’s mum said: ‘Paul had to tell the girls what was going on. He just told them, ”Mummy’s lost”. It’s heartbreaking.’ 

Meanwhile, a business owner who raised the alarm about Ms Bulley’s disappearance has spoken for the first time of the moment she came across her ‘worried’ dog Willow by the side of a river.

The woman, who did not want be named, spotted the brown springer spaniel on the river bank on Friday morning.

She also found Ms Bulley’s mobile phone on a bench by the side of the river, under a tree which has a sign warning of deep water nailed to it.

Bizarrely, Willow was running free and the woman found the dog’s harness on the ground next to the river.

She called her daughter-in-law who called Ms Bulley’s Mr Ansell, who in turn dialled 999.

The woman, who runs a business in picturesque St Michaels on Wyre, said she knew of Ms Bulley and hoped nothing ‘bad’ had happened to her.

Speaking yesterday, she said: ‘I saw the dog and I recognised it, but I suddenly couldn’t think whose dog it was.

‘There was a mobile phone on the bench and there was also something between the bench and the river so I went and looked, and it was a dog harness.

‘The dog looked worried so I tied her up and rushed home as I had to go to an appointment.

‘I then went and spoke to my daughter-in-law and she immediately knew who the dog was, alerted the woman’s partner and that was it – the police were on it.’

A poster from Lancashire Police asks for information in the search for missing woman Nicola Bulley

Search teams have once again been scouring the area following the disappearance last week

A poster seeking information in the search for missing woman Nicola Bulley is seen near the bench where her mobile phone was found

Specialist search teams were pictured once again searching the river yesterday, this time helped by a police sniffer dog.

The animals are able to search large areas of water, both lakes and rivers, and are able to perform a search in approximately 10 per cent of the time taken by other search techniques.

Officers combed the area for clues on the river bank either side of the water. On one side of the river is the bench where police found her phone still linked to a work conference call.

The danger sign warning of deep water is nailed to a tree behind the bench – joined now by a missing person poster appealing for information about her disappearance.

Across the way, an apparently abandoned house is visible in the distance. Officers are believed to have searched its grounds, but it’s reportedly not of any significant interest to the investigation.

And detectives probing the disappearance spoke to a ‘key witness’ who may have been the last person to see Ms Bulley as he walked his own dog.

Superintendent Sally Riley said: ‘I must stress at this time that this remains a missing person inquiry and at this time there is nothing to suggest any third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.’

Ms Bulley’s daughters ‘cried their eyes out’ as their father, Paul Ansell, tried to console them while stricken with fear and grief himself

Police search the perimeter of the deserted house as the operation enters its seventh day

A search dog from Lancashire Police and a crew from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service search the River Wyre for missing woman Nicola Bulley

Meanwhile, neighbours have raised fears about the ‘slippery riverbank’ near to where the missing mother was last seen.

Her disappearance comes more than two decades after a toddler drowned in the same river less than six miles from where Ms Bulley was last seen.

The body of two-year-old Reece Maybury washed up half a mile downstream from the riverside camp site he had been staying at with family.

Speaking from the family home in Inskip, Mr Ansell said he spent all of Sunday searching for his partner of 12 years.

The engineer said: ‘It is just perpetual hell. It is just utter disbelief. We are living through this but it doesn’t feel real.

‘All we can say is we need to find her. She’s got two little girls that need their mummy home. We have got to get some good news now.’

In November Ms Bulley posted how visibility on her dog walk had been poor as well as spooky

Villager Nicola Dewey told the The Times she’d skipped her usual river walk for two days running in the wake of Ms Bulley’s disappearance. 

‘It’s really stunned people. It’s silly, but we are now locking our doors,’ she said.

Ben Pociecha, the director of Exclusively Mortgages, said Ms Bulley had logged on to a team meeting at 9.01am. ‘It seems as if she was muted and didn’t have her camera on. She was listening in whilst walking her dog,’ he told MailOnline. 

Police find ‘key witness’ who could help them find Nicola: READ MORE 

‘There were numerous parties involved in this. A lot of people attended the call. The police are investigating the call.’

Ms Bulley has lived in Lancashire for 25 years, but is originally from near Chelmsford, Essex, and has a southern accent. 

Her brother-in-law Stephen Cunningham said: ‘The whole family, as expected, are struggling to understand what’s happened and worried beyond words.’ 

It came as a social media post emerged where Ms Bulley shared pictures of herself walking her beloved dog Willow, close to where she vanished on January 27. 

In it, she said: ‘A very foggy cold walk this morning, not a day to forget your gloves! Bit spooky too! Set me up for the day though and Willow had the best time.’

The bench where Ms Bulley is thought to have left her mobile phone before she vanished

Ms Bulley had been out walking this dog, Willow, when she was reported missing on Friday

Police search a bank alongside the River Wyre close to where the missing mother of two was last seen on Friday morning

Police are appealing for any information on Mr Bulley’s whereabouts. She is described as white, 5ft 3in, with light brown shoulder-length hair.

At the time of her disappearance she was wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellington boots. Her hair was in a ponytail.

Mr Ansell said he or Ms Bulley, also known as Nikki, would drop their children off at a local primary school before taking Willow for a walk along the river nearby.

Ms Bulley did the school run before heading for the dog walk on Friday, police indicated.

‘I got a call from the school regarding somebody who had found Willow, Nikki’s phone and the dog lead and harness on the bench,’ Mr Ansell, who then called the police, said.

  • Anybody with information can call 101, quoting log 473 of January 27, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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