The search expert leading the hunt for Nicola Bulley, who went missing walking her dog, is not out of his depth when it comes to high-profile cases.
Peter Faulding, the head of Specialist Group International (SGI), which is helping police in their search of the River Wyre, in Lancashire, has also worked on the so-called “spy in the bag” case of MI6 agent Gareth Williams, who was found dead in a padlocked holdall in a bath in his flat in 2010.
Mr Faulding was asked by the Met Police to assist them in their investigation into Mr Williams’ death, in what he recently described as the most “baffling” case he has ever worked on.
While the police concluded that Mr Williams’ death was “probably an accident” - it was thought he may have been involved in a sex game that went wrong - Mr Faulding still to this day believes he was murdered.
He even tried to recreate the scenario that police were working with, that the victim had climbed into the holdall and zipped it shut, but concluded that it was “impossible”.
“In Gareth's case, there were no fingerprints, no footprints, no DNA. Surely, if he had miraculously managed to climb into the bag and lock himself in, there would have been evidence of his struggle?” Mr Faulding wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper earlier this year.
“In all, I tried more than 300 times to lock myself in the bag and couldn't do it. Not even Houdini would have been able to pull it off.
“I presented my thoughts to the investigation team. In my opinion, Gareth was already dead when he was put in the bag,” he said.
Some 13 years later, Mr Faulding and his team are searching a section of the River Wyre for Ms Bulley, 45, in a case he has also described as “baffling”.
The mother-of-two vanished while walking her dog on Jan 27 after dropping her children off at the nearby primary school.
Police are working on the hypothesis that the she fell in the river, but Mr Faulding is confident that if his team does not find her then she is not in the river and there may be “third-party involvement”.
Drawing a comparison with the case of Laura Torn, who vanished in 2003, he has also claimed Ms Bulley’s phone, which was found on a bench near to where she disappeared, could have been left as a “decoy” by a third party.
Police spent ten days scouring a five-mile stretch of the River Trent, in North Lincolnshire, after finding a black shoe belonging to Ms Torn on the banks of the water, and she was eventually found “in a haystack” having been murdered by Guy Beckett, a pub landlord.
On Wednesday, the specialist search team are undertaking their second, and what could be their final, day of searching for Ms Bulley, and have already ruled out a stretch of the river between where police believe she may have fallen in and the weir where the water becomes tidal.