Nicola Bulley, 45, went missing last Friday morning with her mobile phone found on a bench – still dialled into a conference call she was on when she was last seen.
She had been walking her pet dog Willow on a towpath by the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, who was discovered loose in the area.
Police have said they are keeping an ‘open mind’ about what happened but do not believe Ms Bulley was attacked.
Now, a neighbour has suggested the mum of two may have slipped into the water.
‘We went out on the search on Sunday and she has taken the dog there loads of times but the banks of the river can be very slippery,’ the neighbor said.
‘You just don’t know do you but I do know that she would have never ever left those children voluntarily. The whole family is doting.
‘I would imagine Nicola was a doting mum. They are the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet.
‘I think everyone is devastated because she seemed the kind of girl who didn’t have a bad bone in her body.
Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue’s Kev Camplin led a team of 25 trained volunteers on the day Ms Bulley went missing.
According to him, they searched the river, the surrounding woodland, water margins and even a nearby abandoned house.
‘We didn’t go into the house, as a volunteer search and rescue team we don’t actually go into buildings. We might go into a barn or something, he said.
‘We leave that to the police. While the team was searching the grounds, the owner was there for some reason, and we asked him to go in and he had a quick look around and she wasn’t there.’
On Tuesday, detectives confirmed they had tracked down and spoken to a key witness in their search, as he had been walking his dog in the same area at the time.
Police said the witness, who was walking a white fluffy dog in the area, was ‘currently being spoken to’.
The man ‘spoke to the woman in the area who found Nicola’s dog near a bench in the field’, the force said in an earlier statement.
Ms Bulley was reportedly last seen by a man walking his dog in the vicinity about 9.15am. The man has spoken with police.
His wife, a 57-year-old software engineer, told The Times her husband was one of three people in the field the morning Ms Bulley disappeared.
‘He said there was nothing unusual about her and she seemed completely normal,’ she said.
‘I’d often see her and say hello. I always thought she looked very nicely dressed, in her bobble hat and smart Wellington boots. It’s just horrible to know she’s missing.’
Ms Bulley’s partner of 12 years, Paul Ansell, said: ‘It is just perpetual hell. It is just utter disbelief.
‘We are living through this but it doesn’t feel real. All we can say is we need to find her. She’s got two little girls that need their mummy home.
‘We have got to get some good news now.’
His father, David, said: ‘The children have been told, ‘Mummy’s missing’, but they haven’t been told the full details,’ according to The Sun.
‘When they were told, they absolutely cried their eyes out.’
And Ms Bulley’s mum said: ‘Paul had to tell the girls what was going on. He just told them, ”Mummy’s lost”. It’s heartbreaking.’
Speaking from the family home in Inskip, Lancashire, Mr Ansell said he spent all of Sunday searching for his partner of 12 years.