Nicola Bulley: 7 facts about the underwater forensics search for missing woman in River Wyre
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Why have the specialist underwater team been brought in?
The Specialist Group International (SGI), who assists in police investigations across the south east, have offered up their expertise and state-of-the-art underwater equipment free of charge to assist with the search for Nicola Bulley.
Peter Faulding, a forensic expert and CEO of SGI, told a group of journalists today that this was possible as they had some ‘free time in the diary’, and as the family have ‘kindly accommodated’ the team with somewhere local to stay.
How long will the search take?
The crew expect to work for around three or four days, to cover the entire river.
The forensic expert told Blackpool Gazette that they will search until around 7pm each day, in boats that are well-equipped with built-in flood lights.
“We are going to be working our hardest, we’ll probably be working under darkness tonight for a while and that’s my intention to help the family.”
How powerful is the sonar scanner?
The main piece of equipment that will help the search is a high-tech 1800 kHz Side Scan Sonar which will scan the river and allows him to see ‘every stick and stone on the river bed’.
Although police have already used sonar equipment to scan the river, this particular piece of kit is much more powerful. Faulding reckons it’s ‘probably around 1,200 mHz higher frequency’ than the one that has already been used.
But he also adds: “I’ve got over 20 years experience of working with sonar so I know what I’m looking for. It’s not just the sonar it’s the operator as well, you’ve got to know what you’re doing to use it properly.”
What happens when they find something in the water?
Faulding said that sometimes if a body is on its side it can easily be mistaken for something else, so they ‘have to check everything’.
A team of six divers are on standby, and will only go in the water if there’s a target – which may or may not turn out to be a body.
Do they need to check areas that the police have already covered?
The whole river will be re-checked, including the location immediately near where Nicola was last seen.
Faulding added: “You can search one day and the body can move down from another location so everything has got to be rechecked.”
What is the water like where Nicola was last seen?
The area immediately near the bench is not fast-moving, but Faulding described it as ‘black murky water’ that is hard to see in.
The founder of SGI took a helicopter over the area, to help learn more about the location before launching the boat.
He said: “It’s not a fast tidal river. It’s around two or three metres deep, but there are a lot of shallows.”
They will also need to check for any drains in the riverbed.
What happens if Nicola is not found in the river?
The police believe that all evidence suggests that Nicola Bulley is in the water, and they need to eliminate the river before they move on to other possibilities.
Faulding added: “If we can’t find her in the next three or four days in this river, if she’s not here, then I’m confident that she’s not in this stretch of river. I’d be very confident of that."