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The Lancashire Police investigation into the disappearance of mum-of-two Nicola Bulley has come in for some scathing criticism.
Forensic search expert Peter Faulding has gone public with significant doubts about the official police theory that the 45-year-old mortgage adviser fell into the River Wyre and was swept out into Morecambe Bay.
But Julie Mackay, a retired Detective Superintendent with years of experience with missing person cases, has backed the police's working explanation, saying that if there had been any criminal involvement a clue would have emerged by now.
READ MORE: Police slam Nicola Bulley 'experts' and urge them to 'stop' as investigation continues
Ms Mackay said three key factors lead her to believe the police's theory that Nicola most likely fell in the river:
- No new information has given them a reason to think otherwise;
- It is unlikely to be criminal based on the time she disappeared;
- The winter conditions would make it harder to find her.
"I still believe she's gone in that river,” she said. “When you look at the last two weeks and review it, nothing has changed.”
Despite police admitting the presence of two significant CCTV blind spots, Ms Mackay thinks it’s very unlikely that anyone else was involved in Nicola’s disappearance.
The retired cop, who led the team that brought twisted killer Christopher Hampton to justice, told the Mirror: "I don't think it [was a] criminal, because there would have been a clue along the way.
"If you were looking at a criminal act it is usually from an opportunist.
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"Where women are attacked by a stranger and sexually assaulted… or sadly murdered… it's spontaneous."
"It's rare they would camp out the area, check the route, the CCTV and do it at all around 9am," she said.
"This is when you are weighing up the pros and cons of third-party involvement.
"However, it's good that it is highlighted and that police continue to explore every opportunity."
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Instead, Ms Mackay believes it's likely that Nicola simply slipped over the sheer drop at the river bank and into the unforgivingly cold, fast-flowing water.
It was a chilly day and Nicola was wearing thick winter clothing, Ms Macaky points out, and even an experienced swimmer can struggle in those circumstances.
"Generally wearing winter clothes makes it more difficult to get out it will weigh you down,” she said. "The cold water shock alone will knock you sideways even for an experienced swimmer".
"That cold water shock very quickly disorientates you," she added, "and with winter clothes it's heavy and panic will set in.
"And once you start losing control it can be quite difficult to regain it".
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And to the million-dollar question – why hasn’t a body been spotted in the river, Ms Mackay replied: "I don't think it is unusual no one saw her in the river because there is a lot of debris, logs and rubbish.
"People don't expect to see something they can't identify.
"It's also how the body operates in the water, it sinks until decomposition sets in and because it's so cold it may be a bit longer."
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