Lancashire Police to conduct internal review into Nicola Bulley investigation

The announcement comes as police came under fire for disclosing Ms Bulley’s vulnerabilities in a press conference.

Josh Payne
Friday 17 February 2023 18:00 GMT
Undated family handout photo issued by Lancashire Police of missing woman Nicola Bulley, 45, who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27, when she was spotted walking her dog on a footpath by the nearby River Wyre. Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser from Inskip, Lancashire, vanished while walking her dog after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school. Her mobile phone and the lead and harness for her dog, springer spaniel Willow, were found on a bench close to the River Wyre in the Lancashire countryside.Issue date: Friday February 3, 2023.
Undated family handout photo issued by Lancashire Police of missing woman Nicola Bulley, 45, who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27, when she was spotted walking her dog on a footpath by the nearby River Wyre. Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser from Inskip, Lancashire, vanished while walking her dog after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school. Her mobile phone and the lead and harness for her dog, springer spaniel Willow, were found on a bench close to the River Wyre in the Lancashire countryside.Issue date: Friday February 3, 2023.

Lancashire Police is set to conduct an internal review into the Nicola Bulley investigation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he was “concerned that private information was put into the public domain” by officers during a press conference on Wednesday.

He told broadcasters he was “pleased that the police are looking at how that happened in the investigation”.

The force confirmed a date had been set for the review, which will be conducted by their Head of Crime, Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables.

The announcement comes as police came under fire for what was labelled a “sexist” error when they disclosed information about Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and the menopause in a press conference.

Former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she believed the force had made a “dreadful error” in releasing details of the missing mother-of-two’s vulnerabilities.

A source close to the Home Secretary previously said Suella Braverman was also “concerned” and demanded an explanation from police on Thursday.

Confirming he agreed with Ms Braverman, the PM told broadcasters: “Well I agree with the Home Secretary, and like her I was concerned that private information was put into the public domain.

“I’m pleased that the police are looking at how that happened in the investigation.

“Obviously my thoughts are with Nicola’s friends and family and the focus must now be on continuing to try and find her.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it had received a referral from the force regarding the contact officers had with Ms Bulley on January 10 – before she went missing.

In a statement confirming the internal review, a police spokeswoman said: “A review of the investigation is diarised and will be conducted by our Head of Crime Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables.

“She is also PIP 4 accredited and has attended the national reviewer course.”

Ms Bulley vanished after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school on January 27 in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

She was last seen at 9.10am taking her usual route with her springer spaniel Willow, alongside the River Wyre.

Her phone, still connected to a work call for her job as a mortgage adviser, was found just over 20 minutes later on a bench overlooking the riverbank, with her dog running loose.

Information Commissioner John Edwards said he will be asking Lancashire Police about its decision to disclose Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and HRT.

He said in a statement: “Data protection law exists to ensure people’s personal information is used properly and fairly. This includes ensuring personal details are not disclosed inappropriately.”

“Given the high-profile nature of this case, we will be asking Lancashire Police to set out how they reached the decision to disclose this information in due course.”

The force also came under fire from the leader of Wyre Council, who said there were “lessons to be learned”.

Michael Vincent told Sky News people in the village where she vanished have employed an external security company because of interest in the case.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Times Radio he “was very surprised to see what the police had put out there”, noting he was not sure “why the degree of personal information was necessary”.

Ms Bulley’s family urged people to stop “making wild theories up” about her and called for an end to the “speculation and rumours” about her private life in a statement issued on Thursday.

The decision by the force to reveal details of Ms Bulley’s “vulnerabilities” had earlier been criticised by MPs and campaign groups.

The Conservative police and crime commissioner for Lancashire, Andrew Snowden, said the force was being “as transparent as they can be” following the press conference.

On February 3, the force told the public of its main hypothesis that Ms Bulley had fallen into the River Wyre in a “10-minute window” between 9.10am and 9.20am on the day she disappeared.

The search for her has since been extended to the sea but she has not been found.

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