After days of silence, the police force searching for missing Nicola Bulley held an extraordinary public briefing this morning – debunking several conspiracy theories about her disappearance.
TikTokers and armchair detectives have been obsessed with the case since the mother-of-two vanished without a trace on January 27 in St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire.
And the perceived lack of information coming from Lancashire Police during the probe, which is in its 19th day, created a vacuum filled by commentary and a number of theories.
But today Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith addressed ‘persistent myths’ about the case, at one point ridiculing one conspiracy theory.
Here MailOnline goes through the now-discredited theories:
Police went through various theories in detail to explain why they were not valid
Det Supt Smith appeared to ridicule the idea that fisherman at the river (pictured) when Ms Bulley vanished could have been suspicious
The suspicious fishermen
There have been widespread reports about a pair of fishermen who were said to have been acting strangely when Ms Bulley went missing.
The men were described by an anonymous witness as trying to hide their faces with ‘dark clothing’ and ‘hoods or hats’ while also carrying fishing rods.
The witness said the men were acting ‘very strange’ and the sighting made him feel ‘uneasy’.
Today, Det Supt Smith admitted she had not found the men in question but appeared to make fun of the idea they could have been involved in wrongdoing.
She said: ‘There has also been mention of a number of fishermen who were seen that morning who again were described as suspicious.
‘I myself don’t find it suspicious that fisherman would be in the area of a river that morning or carrying fishing roads.
‘But there was some suggestion one of these men might have been covering their face. We have made a number of appeals for these fishermen to come forward.’
Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said: ‘I would emphasise that it remains the case there is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance’
The derelict house
A large, empty property located near where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone and dog’s harness was found has fascinated the public.
It has been pictured online in viral posts and people have been repeatedly claiming it has not been investigated.
At one point, police are said to have handed a dispersal order to a group of men who had travelled 50 miles from the Liverpool area to St Michael’s on Wyre to try and search it.
Today, Det Supt Smith disclosed that in fact the house had been carefully scoured by officers.
She revealed: ‘The derelict house which is across the other side of the river has been searched three times, with the permission of the owner.
‘Nicola is not in there.’
The abandoned house had been searched three times without Ms Bulley being found there
Someone else was involved
A focus of speculation has been the idea that someone else could have been involved in Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
People have pointed out that the police have already searched the river thoroughly but found no evidence of a body.
Similarly, there have been reports of people acting suspiciously around the area Ms Bulley disappeared.
However, the police made significant effort to stress they were not fixed in their view on what could have caused Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
The force was also firm it still favoured the hypothesis she had tragically ended up in the river.
They said there was ‘no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third-party involvement’.
Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said: ‘I would emphasise that it remains the case there is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.
‘However, the officers involved in the investigation are the same experienced specialists and many senior officers who are concerned with the investigation of the most serious and complex crimes.’
Det Supt Smith said red van driver had not been traced but added that is was not suspicious
The red van
A transit van had been brought to the attention of the police.
The ‘tatty red van’ was seen by two people in Hall Lane near to the riverbank where Ms Bulley’s phone and dog Willow were found.
One of the witnesses told The Times: ‘I didn’t think anything at the time, but when I saw Nicola had gone missing, I called 101 and spoke to an operator.
‘I contacted the police again on Friday and spoke to a police officer. It could have been a Renault van.’
However, Det Supt Smith said she did not believe it had been in the area at the crucial time of Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
The office said the driver had not been traced and she would like to speak to them.
But she added it was not being treated as suspicious: ‘The red van, we’re really grateful to members of the public for ringing into the inquiry, we wouldn’t have got this far without everyone’s help.
‘But it’s also really obvious that we are being inundated with false information, accusations and rumours which is distracting us from our work.’
TikTok ‘sleuths’ believed they had stumbled across significant evidence when they found a ‘stained’ glove near to where Ms Bulley disappeared.
Footage shows the moment it was located, with the cameraman claiming: ‘It looks like there’s blood on it.’
On the film, they can be heard saying they are going to alert police to it, before adding: ‘There’s definitely some stains on it guys.’
Today, Lancashire Police said the glove was in its possession after it was handed in by members of the public.
Detective Supt Smith said: ‘In terms of the glove that has been recovered, you’ll no doubt be aware that TikTokers have been playing their own private detectives and have been in the area.
‘A glove has been recovered that is not believed to be relevant to the investigation.
‘It is not Nicola’s but we have got that in our possession.’
Ms Bulley had been on a work call when she went missing on January 27 last month
The work call
Ms Bulley worked as a mortgage adviser and had been on a work call to her employers at the time.
Much had been made of the fact she had not been on camera or the microphone during the conversation.
But the police has insisted the situation had been entirely normal for the mother-of-two.
Having spoken to colleagues and family, they confirmed the meeting was ‘listen in’ only.
Ms Bulley was not expected to be on microphone or screen and never was in previous calls.
Willow, Nicola Bulley’s spaniel, who was with her when she vanished in St Michael’s-on-Wyre
Ms Bulley adored her dog Willow and would take her for a walk on the same route each day.
When the animal was found on its own on the river pathway, much was made by conspiracy theorists on why the harness was on the floor.
Some had suggested there could have been a dognapping gone wrong.
The police have insisted there is nothing suspicious about the lead.
Det Supt Smith addressed it, by disclosing: ‘It was really normal not for Willow to have her harness on in the field.’
Police officers walk past the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found shortly after her disappearance
Ms Bulley pictured with her dog Willow during a walk. She was walking her pet when she went missing two weeks ago
The mobile phone
The discovery of Ms Bulley’s phone on the bench near Willow had also sparked some outlandish theories.
They had included whether the handset may have been placed there as a distraction or even a sign she had been interrupted on the call.
But the fact it was not in Ms Bulley’s pocket when she vanished, was not an unusual occurrence.
She had always held it out in front of her when the Teams calls were going on as she walked.
Police say they eyewitness that saw her had confirmed she was doing this on the day she vanished.
Missing Nicola Bulley shown wearing her Fitbit device, which could be crucial to the case
Nicola had been into her exercise and fitness and like many others wore a Fitbit bracelet gadget.
Former detectives had suggested the device could be key to helping locate where she could be.
But police said the high-tech wearable could not assist them in tracking her. Dept Supt Smith said: ‘No further information can be gained because it wasn’t synced.’