Body found in search for missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley

The 45-year-old has been missing since 27 January

Jane Dalton
Sunday 19 February 2023 22:30 GMT
Nicola Bulley: Police divers and helicopters search River Wyre

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A body has been found in the search for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley.

Ms Bulley, 45, a mother of two, vanished on 27 January while walking her dog after dropping off her daughters at school in St Michael’s on Wyre.

Her disappearance prompted a large-scale search operation involving detectives, fire crews, mountain rescuers and police helicopters.

On Sunday, police launched a new diving operation and rushed to seal off a road after a tip-off was received from two walkers.

Lancashire Police later confirmed a body had been recovered from the River Wyre, close to where Ms Bulley vanished.

While the body has not yet been identified, Ms Bulley’s family have been informed of the discovery.

Nicola Bulley, 45, was last seen on the morning of January 27
Nicola Bulley, 45, was last seen on the morning of January 27 (PA Media)

The force said: “We were called today at 11.36am to reports of a body in the River Wyre, close to Rawcliffe Road.

“An underwater search team and specialist officers have subsequently attended the scene, entered the water and have sadly recovered a body.

“No formal identification has yet been carried out, so we are unable to say whether this is Nicola Bulley at this time.

“Nicola’s family have been informed of developments and our thoughts are with them at this most difficult of times. We ask that their privacy is respected.”

A police diving team on Sunday at the River Wyre near St Michael’s on Wyre
A police diving team on Sunday at the River Wyre near St Michael’s on Wyre (PA Wire)

The body was found around a mile from where Ms Bulley was last seen walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre.

A man and a woman walking their dog discovered the body and called police on Sunday morning.

The body was found on an unremarkable stretch of the river, just past a slight bend, a mile or so outside the village.

In a text to a Sky News correspondent after the body was found, Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell said: “No words right now, just agony.”

(Google Maps/The Independent)

Underwater search expert Peter Faulding, who was called in by Ms Bulley’s family to help find her, found no trace of her in the section of river searched by his team and police divers over three days.

On Sunday, Mr Faulding said he had only cleared the area around the bench where her mobile phone was found, and that the tidal section beyond the weir was “an open book”.

“All I can say is when we searched she was not on the bottom of that river,” he told MailOnline. “We weren’t searching the reeds, our job was to search the water.”

Nicola and her partner Paul Ansell
Nicola and her partner Paul Ansell (Nicola Bulley/Facebook)

Ms Bulley vanished while walking along with River Wyre with her spaniel Willow on the morning of 27 January.

The dog was later found running free, without its harness or lead on, and had not been in the water. Ms Bulley’s mobile was found on a bench, still logged on to a conference call with her employer, for whom she worked as a mortgage adviser.

Detectives from Lancashire Police this week doubled down on the theory that the mortgage adviser had slipped into the river, which the force said is very deep in parts.

The investigation into her disappearance has attracted widespread speculation from social media sleuths as well as criticism of the police response.

The force came under fire after making Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and peri-menopause public three weeks after she vanished.

In a press conference on Wednesday, they revealed that she was classed as a “high-risk” missing person immediately after her partner Mr Ansell reported her disappearance, “based on a number of specific vulnerabilities”.

They later added in a statement that Ms Bulley, from Inskip in Lancashire, had stopped taking her HRT medication.

(The Independent/ Datawrapper)

A public backlash and interventions from both the government and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper followed, with Lancashire Police confirming a date had been set for an internal review into the investigation.

Shortly after police revealed Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol, her family released a statement condemning the “appalling” speculation around her private life, saying that they believed the public had become “distracted” from the search.

“Although we know that Nikki would not have wanted [personal details revealed], there are people out there speculating and threatening to sell stories about her. This is appalling and needs to stop,” her family said.

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