Nicola Bulley: Police divers return to River Wyre six weeks after body of missing mother found

The mother of two went missing on 27 January prompting a three week search

Thomas Kingsley
Tuesday 11 April 2023 12:58 BST
Man recalls the moment he found Nicola Bulley's phone

Police divers have returned to the River Wyre six weeks after Nicola Bulley’s body was found in the water.

Footage has been shared on social media showing the divers in the water.

Officers are seen wading through the water next to the weir close to where the 45-year-old's phone and her dog Willow were found on the morning she disappeared on 27 January.

Nicola Bulley went missing in the River Wyre while walking her dog - before being found in the water three weeks later

Lancashire Police confirmed to The Independent that officers returned to the river as part of the investigation into the 45-year-old’s death.

“We can confirm this is us carrying out some work at the direction of HM Coroner,” a police spokesman said.

This timeline shows the events around the mother’s disappearance, search investigation and identification

Ms Bulley’s body was found a mile downstream from the weir on 19 February among reeds and undergrowth but a cause of death has not yet been made public.

An inquest into her death is to be heard on Monday, 26 June at County Hall in Preston.

Two dog walkers found the body of Ms Bulley just a mile down river from where she went missing, it is understood.

The bench where Nicola Bulley’s phone was found, on the banks of the River Wyre, in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire (Danny Lawson/PA)

Despite a huge police land, water and air search over the last three weeks it was a man and a woman who spotted a body in the water.

The body was found on an unremarkable stretch of the river, just past a slight bend, a mile or so outside the village, close to where a tree had fallen on its side half in and half outside the water, with branches and undergrowth partially submerged.

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.

A map showing the exact location where a body in the search for missing dog walker Nicola Bulley was found

The investigation into Ms Bulley’s disappearance attracted widespread speculation 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, the force revealed the mother-of-two was classed as a “high-risk” missing person immediately after 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.

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

Ms Bulley’s family paid tribute to her after her body was identified saying she was “the centre of our world.”

“We will never be able to comprehend what Nikki had gone through in her last moments and that will never leave us,” the family said.

Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell

“We will never forget Nikki, how could we, she was the centre of our world, she was the one who made our lives so special and nothing will cast a shadow over that. Our girls will get the support they need from the people who love them the most.”

They continued: “To those who genuinely helped and supported us, privately, we thank you.

“The community support in St Michael’s [on Wyre], friends, neighbours and strangers has been nothing short of comforting and heart-warming. Friends you know who you are. Thank you.

“Our hearts truly break for others who have missing loved ones. Keep that hope alive.

Police locate the body of Nicola Bulley three weeks after she went missing

“Finally, Nikki, you are no longer a missing person, you have been found, we can let you rest now.

“We love you, always have and always will, we will take it from here.”

HM Coroner’s Office said in a statement following Ms Bulley’s death: “The investigation will take time to complete to ensure that as complete a picture as possible of the facts concerning Ms Bulley's death is presented at the inquest. This will assist the family in understanding what occurred.

“As part of this process, HM Senior Coroner has requested Lancashire Constabulary produce information gathered during the search for Ms Bulley so it can be considered as part of the investigation.”

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