What could Nicola Bulley’s ‘specific vulnerabilities’ be as police reveal new details about missing mother?

Lancashire Police said they were made aware of the mother of two’s ‘specific vulnerabilities’ after speaking to her partner, Paul Ansell

Martha McHardy
Friday 17 February 2023 06:18 GMT
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Police officer avoids saying she is 'confident' that Nicola Bulley is still alive

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Missing dog walker Nicola Bulley had “specific vulnerabilities”, Lancashire Police confirmed in a press conference.

In a press conference, senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith said Ms Bulley was graded as a “high-risk” missing person when she was reported missing on 27 January.

“As soon as she was reported missing, following the information that was provided to the police by her partner Paul, and based on a number of specific vulnerabilities that we were made aware of, Nicola was graded as high-risk. That is normal in a missing person investigation with the information we were in possession of,” Smith said:

Lancashire Police refused to elaborate on what the “specific vulnerabilities” were but confirmed they were made aware of them after speaking to Nicola’s partner, Paul Ansell.

Nicola Bulley was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27 (Family handout/PA)
Nicola Bulley was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27 (Family handout/PA) (PA Media)

When applied to adults who are at risk, specific vulnerabilities can refer to mental ill health, substance misuse or isolation, according to the College of Policing.

It can also relate to committing or assisting in the commission of crimes because it is known the person may be easier to groom, manipulate and threaten, and as a victim, they may be less likely to report their experience.

It is not clear which, if any, of those elements may relate to Ms Bulley.

It remains the police’s “main working hypothesis” that the mother of two fell into the River Wyre. They reiterated on Wednesday that there was no evidence of any third-party involvement in the case.

Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen while walking her dog Willow on a footpath next to the River Wyre on Friday 27 January.

But friends and family have questioned this theory, with Mr Ansell saying he is “100 per cent convinced” she is not in the water.

Diving expert Peter Faulding, who was called in to use sonar technology to search the river, has also disputed the theory.

Police activity near the bench by the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, where the mobile phone was found as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley
Police activity near the bench by the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, where the mobile phone was found as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley (PA)

He told MailOnline that if Ms Bulley had fallen down the bank she would have been easily able to stand up and wait for help rather than be swept away by the current.

He said: “If she slipped down the bank she wouldn’t go far. The rocks would hold her in place and she’d only have been waist deep. She could have stood there and asked for help because people do walk by.”

The police said they were keeping an open mind about where Ms Bulley could be and was continuing to carry out a huge number of enquiries.

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