The 2003 murder that experts are comparing to Nicola Bulley's disappearance
The search specialist who joined the police's hunt for Nicola Bulley has drawn comparisons between a 2003 murder and the disappearance of the mother-of-two.
Peter Faulding, head of a team of underwater experts searching the River Wyre in Lancashire, said that the 45-year-old’s disappearance was the most “unusual” he had encountered in his 20-year career.
He compared it to the case of aspiring police cadet Laura Torn, 18, who vanished in 2003.
He claimed that Ms Bulley's phone, which was found on a bench near to where she disappeared, could have been left as a "decoy".
Mr Faulding said this struck him as being similar to some of the circumstances surrounding Ms Torn's death.
Ms Torn was last seen in the market square of Owston Ferry, North Lincolnshire shortly after leaving the Crooked Billet pub in the early hours of April 27.
Police spent ten days scouring a five mile stretch of the River Trent after finding a black shoe belonging to Ms Torn on the banks of the water.
Other items belonging to the teenager were also thought to have been thrown into nearby fields.
"She was eventually found in a haystack miles away," Mr Faulding said.
Pub landlord Guy Beckett, then 32, initially denied strangling Ms Torn but admitted manslaughter. He later pleaded guilty to murder.
Hull Crown Court heard Laura and Beckett had been lovers but she had refused to marry him.
Beckett was ordered to serve a minimum term of 16 years for the murder.
Sentencing him at Hull Crown Court in May 2004, Mr Justice Curtis said: "You strangled a young girl who at least had some emotional feeling for you.
"It was a diabolical thing to do to a young girl.
"You have taken the life of a young person without any excuse. Goodness knows what sorrow you have brought to her family."
Police acted on information received from an Owston Ferry resident when they switched their search from the Trent and its banks to the countryside.
Detectives said there were many haystacks in such a rural farming area and without specific intelligence the body would not have been found for a long time.
Speaking shortly after she disappeared, the vicar of Owston Ferry, the Reverend Jean Staff, said after "Everyone is deeply upset by what is happening. It's the not knowing which makes it all the more difficult."
Mr Faulding and his search team will today scour the area upstream of where Ms Bulley is believed to have disappeared.
Police believe Ms Bulley has fallen into the River Wyre, but "remain open minded" and are continuing to carry out a "huge number" of inquiries.
The force said officers have "spoken to numerous witnesses, analysed Nicola's mobile phone and Fitbit and searched the derelict house on the other side of the river as well as any empty caravans in the vicinity".
Her phone, still connected to a Teams call for her job as a mortgage adviser, was found on a bench on a steep riverbank overlooking the water, along with the dog lead and harness on the ground.