An underwater search expert said the case of missing mother Nicola Bulley is a “complete mystery” after his team could not find her in the River Wyre, near to where she went missing.

The family called Peter Faulding in to help search for Ms Bulley and he met her partner on Wednesday and told him she still hadn’t been found.

Wednesday marked the 12th day of the search in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

The mortgage adviser, 45, disappeared on January 27 after taking her two children, aged six and nine, to school. She was then seen taking her springer spaniel Willow for a walk along the river.

Lancashire Telegraph: Paul Ansell visiting the riverside area with Peter FauldingPaul Ansell visiting the riverside area with Peter Faulding (Image: PA)

Ms Bulley’s phone was found on a bench near the river, still connected to a work call and her dog’s harness and lead were found close by.

Mr Faulding and his team, from rescue operation Specialist Group International, have been searching the area around the bench, the “entry point” where police believe Ms Bulley fell into the river.

He said the search ended on Wednesday after a “thorough and extensive search of the areas we were tasked with by Lancashire Police” found “no sign of Nicola”.

Lancashire Telegraph: Peter Faulding's and his team have ended the river hunt in search for Nicola BulleyPeter Faulding's and his team have ended the river hunt in search for Nicola Bulley (Image: PA)

On what he thinks happened to her, he told the PA news agency: “It’s a total mystery for me, I really don’t know.

“In all the searches I’ve done, this is one which will stick with me.

“Normally we get tasked with, you know, searching for a knife or a body and there’s been a witness to a drowning or we’ve got really good intelligence.

“The sort of information we’ve got here is a mobile phone on a bench but we don’t know anything else.

“I’m glad really that we haven’t found Nicola because I didn’t want to recover another dead body.

“It just opens it up, is she alive, is she dead?

“Did she go in the river or didn’t she?

“And I can’t say one way or another.

“I’m baffled by it and I think most people are.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Nicola Bulley went missing on January 27Nicola Bulley went missing on January 27 (Image: Family handout/PA)

On how Ms Bulley’s family are coping, he added: “It was quite emotional, I mean, brings a tear to my eye to be honest with you, sitting with Paul for a couple of hours, hearing about Nicola and particularly the children, their ‘Where’s mummy?’.

“That’s not nice and they’re clearly in distress and they’ve got no answers and nobody can give them any answers.

“It’s difficult, we’re all banging our heads together really.

“Our involvement is we’ve searched it extremely thoroughly and we’ve ruled out, especially, the area where Nicola supposedly went in all the way down to the first weir and then onward down the river quite a distance.

“And then that’s my area cleared then, and we went upstream as well for about a mile upstream just in case, so it’s been extremely thorough.

“My team have worked long hours on this to get this done and we have done it free of charge to help this family.”

Search teams from Lancashire Police and the Coastguard, including divers, are now focusing on the 10 miles or so of river downstream of the bench, where the River Wyre empties into the sea at Morecambe Bay.

The search was described as “unprecedented” by Superintendent Sally Riley, of Lancashire Police, with 40 detectives following 500 lines of inquiry, with thousands of pieces of information coming in from the public.

Officers were trying to trace dashcam footage from 700 drivers who went through the village on the morning Ms Bulley disappeared.

But Supt Riley ruled out criminal or third-party involvement and on Tuesday reiterated the police’s belief that Ms Bulley had fallen into the river, with her body still unrecovered and police treating the incident as a missing person inquiry.