In a recent review conducted by the College of Policing, the role of underwater search expert Peter Faulding came under scrutiny in the handling of the case of missing person Nicola Bulley by Lancashire Police, as reported by ITV News. The findings shed light on the challenges faced by investigators and the impact of Faulding’s actions on the overall investigation.
The report reveals that Lancashire Police expressed concerns about some of Faulding’s behavior and activities, stating that they “caused challenges to the investigation.” Faulding, who leads the underwater search experts at Specialist Group International (SGI), criticized the police for using what he deemed “low-tech” diving equipment, raising doubts about their ability to locate a body.
Nicola Bulley’s family became aware of these concerns and attempted to contact SGI to aid in the search, urging the police to involve Faulding and his team. However, investigators were informed that SGI did not possess superior equipment that the police couldn’t secure themselves.
Amid these exchanges, a family friend of Bulley conveyed a strong message to the police that refusal to involve Faulding and SGI would result in a negative press release. Lancashire Constabulary, feeling pressured and concerned about public trust and confidence, eventually agreed to enlist the support of SGI in the search efforts. Mr. Faulding offered his services free of charge.
The report details a meeting between a chief inspector and Mr. Faulding, where the former provided advice on communicating with the media. Lancashire Police allegedly presented Faulding with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), but SGI clarified that no official NDA had been discussed or signed. Faulding and his team claimed to feel “ambushed” by the press and unsupported by the police, assuming that their media engagement was within the agreed terms.
The review further outlines Faulding’s assertion that he was not provided with any media guidance by Lancashire Constabulary and had not been instructed to avoid press engagement. According to the report, Faulding informed the Bulley family that he believed he had identified a potential body deposition site, leading to unwarranted distress and the diversion of police resources to address the situation.
Lancashire Constabulary expressed the view that Faulding had a significant impact on the investigation and public confidence through his actions and media engagement. The report suggests that his public statements often contradicted the investigative approach, causing confusion for the public and diminishing the family’s trust in the investigation and search operation.
In response to the review, Mr. Faulding and SGI issued a statement emphasizing the need for a national coordinated response to missing persons. They highlighted the lack of resources and expertise in underwater search operations in the UK and stressed the importance of police accepting assistance from commercial partners with advanced technology and equipment in such cases.