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Private dive-team joins Bulley river search

Private operator SGI’s underwater recovery team vehicles (SGI)
SGI underwater recovery team vehicles (SGI)

A private team of professional scuba divers has volunteered to join the police in searching the River Wyre in Lancashire for missing woman Nicola Bulley from today (6 February).

The police have insisted that the 45-year-old dog-walker most likely fell into the river when she went missing on 27 January near her home in St Michael’s on Wyre. Police divers have been searching the river for days without success as topside searches continue.

Also read: Forensics are different when someone dies in a body of water

The divers from Specialist Group International (SGI) have offered their services free of charge to Lancashire Police, with the Bulley family asked to agree to the move. “This offer includes our dive-team and wide variety of underwater search equipment, in particular our 1800kHz side-scan sonar,” said SGI founder Peter Faulding. “This piece of equipment is the best on the market.”

SGI claims to have the only private underwater forensic search team approved for police operations in the UK, though the Dorking-based group’s arrangements with police forces are mainly in the South-east. Formed in 1999, the team says it has carried out “a huge number of successful operations for evidence and body recovery”.

‘Sonar pioneer’

Faulding claims to have pioneered the use of side-scan sonar for forensic searches for missing persons under water, and the group has its own fleet of boats equipped with sonar, ROVs and magnetometers.

SGI also offers underwater rescue services, but diving operations are only a part of its offering – it is also associated with protester-removal services as well as specialist rescue and surface missing persons investigations.

The River Wyre at St Michael’s on Wyre (David Dixon)
The river at St Michael’s on Wyre (David Dixon)

Lancashire Police has stated that it continues “to lead an extensive and far-reaching multi-agency search using a wide range of specialist equipment and resources” in the hunt for Bulley.

The highly publicised mystery of her disappearance has gripped the public for the past 10 days. Her dog and still-connected mobile phone were found on a riverside bench about 25 minutes after she was last sighted by another walker, but police continue to believe that foul play is an unlikely explanation. 

Although no evidence of a fall or slip has been discovered, the banks of the Wyre can be steep and slippery enough to make this a realistic possibility, they say. The river is narrow and has a maximum depth of less than 4m where Bulley vanished. Beyond St Michael’s on Wyre it is joined by the River Brock and becomes tidal, flowing to the sea at Fleetwood about 13 miles away.

Also on Divernet: Body Recovery Divers Crack 20th Cold Case, Divers Find Teenager’s Body Police Had Missed

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