Police searching for a missing woman are appealing for a “potentially key witness” to come forward.
Mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, 45, went missing last Friday morning – with her mobile phone found on a bench near to where she was last seen on a towpath by the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Immediately before going missing, Ms Bulley was walking her dog, springer spaniel Willow, who was found loose between the river and bench.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Lancashire Police said they are keen to find a man believed to have been in the area at the time Ms Bulley was last seen.
He is described as being aged about 70, white, 6ft, well-built and was walking a small white fluffy dog on a lead. He spoke to a woman in the area who found Ms Bulley’s dog, before he walked in the direction of Rowanwater.
Police have said they are keeping an “open mind” about what happened but do not believe Ms Bulley was attacked.
In a statement, her family said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support from our community and would like to thank everyone for their ongoing efforts to help us find Nicola.
“The girls are desperate to have their mummy back home safe with them and your ongoing efforts have provided comfort to them whilst we await news on Nicola.
A search of the area involving police specialist resources, the Coastguard and Bowland Mountain Rescue is continuing.
Ms Bulley is described as white, 5ft 3in, with light brown, shoulder-length hair.
At the time of her disappearance she was wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellington boots.
Superintendent Sally Riley said: “We remain extremely concerned for Nicola and we continue to do everything we can to try and find her and to provide some answers for her family, who are obviously beside themselves with worry.
“I must stress at this time that this remains a missing person inquiry and at this time there is nothing to suggest any third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.
“We appreciate there is also a great deal of concern in the local community, and we appreciate people want to help. However, parts of the riverbank are treacherous, and we would ask that nobody puts themselves in danger and that the police and partner agencies’ efforts to find Nicola are not compromised.
“If anybody has any questions or concerns, they are welcome to speak to officers in the area.”
Anyone who has seen Ms Bulley, or has information about where she might be, is asked to call 101, quoting log 565 of January 30, or call 999 if they have an immediate sighting.