A DIVING expert has told how Nicola Bulley’s heartbroken partner was left shocked at one particular detail of his team’s search.
The dog walker, 45, disappeared after dropping her children off at school in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on Friday January 27.
Since then there has been no trace of the mum-of-two, leaving her family in agony despite extensive searches.
Cops last week revealed their “main working hypothesis” was that Nicola had “sadly fallen”.
But specialist divers found no evidence of this after combing the river.
The head of the operation Peter Faulding took Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell to the bench where her phone was found on Wednesday.
And the diving expert said one detail shocked Paul in particular.
Peter said: “He’s very upset and he was in tears yesterday. He’s very emotional, obviously.
“He was shocked at how shallow the rocks were yesterday. He thought it was really deep there.
“If she had gone in she would have landed on the rocks.
“The family thanked us for being here.
“They said “You’ve given us confidence now” and his belief is that Nicola has not gone in that river.”
It comes as the search for Nicola moved to the sea yesterday amid the possibility she was swept 20 miles downriver.
Officers scoured Morecambe Bay as it emerged she was last spotted nearly two hours before police were called.
Police are also probing reports of a “shabby and suspicious” red van near where Nicola Bulley disappeared.
The vehicle was spotted close to the mum’s walking route on the morning she went missing.
It was seen parked in a lane — a few hundred yards from the school where Nicola, 45, had dropped off her young children.
A man in his 50s described the van as a high-sided Renault or Transit in a faded red.
The witness said: “It was a shabby looking van, an older model, the kind you can live or work in.
“It was on a quiet lane near a barn, with a couple of houses dotted around.
“Obviously, I don’t know whether this van is related to Nicola’s disappearance. All I know is that something grabbed my attention. I felt compelled to tell police about it.
“Even though it was down the road, as the crow flies it’s quite close to where Nicola was last seen.”