Nicola Bulley police set to hold press conference today
Nicola Bulley cops set to hold press conference today: Detectives behind bungled response to missing mother face more questions – as her family suffer agonising wait for ID of body
- A body was found yesterday in the River Wyre. Body not yet identified as Nikki
Police investigating the disappearance of Nicola Bulley are expected to hold a press conference today.
Detectives are set to speak to the media and give an update on the case – 23 days after the mother-of-two vanished in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27.
A body was discovered in the reeds of the Wyre by two walkers yesterday – less than a mile from where she disappeared three weeks ago. The woman has not yet been formally identified.
The discovery raises yet more questions about the quality of Lancashire Police’s investigation.
Police investigating the disappearance of Nicola Bulley are expected to hold a press conference today
The stretch of the River Wyre where a body was found yesterday
A body was found less than a mile from where Nikki was last seen more than three weeks ago
Nikki’s partner Paul Ansell, 44, has revealed that he and the family are in ‘agony’ as they wait to hear if woman in the water is the missing mortgage advisor.
READ MORE: ‘No words right now… just agony’: Nicola Bulley’s partner says his family ‘have to be strong’ as they face heart-breaking wait for formal ID of body pulled from River Wyre
Mr Ansell and the couple’s two daughters, aged six and nine, have held out hope that the 45-year-old, who vanished three weeks ago, was still alive.
But yesterday two walkers spotted the body of a blonde woman tangled in reeds on Lancashire’s River Wyre before noon on Sunday. Police have not confirmed if it is Nikki – but the area was sealed off, a white tent erected and the most senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, was there.
The family is said to be ‘in a lot of pain’ and ‘incredibly heartbroken’ and their agony is set to continue because formal identification could take several days.
Mr Ansell told Sky News: ‘No words right now, just agony. We’re all together, we have to be strong’.
Yesterday police sealed off the scene just down the river from where Ms Bulley’s phone was found after she took the family dog for a walk on January 27.
Some critics have questioned how police and specialist teams failed to find the body less than a mile down from the village of St Michael’s on Wyre despite weeks of extensive searching. Today flowers have been left on the bench where he phone was found. Former Scotland Yard Superintendent Nusrit Mehtab said: ‘If that is Nicola, then how did they miss that? Some serious questions need to be asked of Lancashire Police’s decision-making’.
Former Met Police commander John O’Connor told The Sun: ‘These search teams couldn’t find a currant in a rice pudding. I find it pathetic that a body has been found a mile from where she went missing.’
Officers and divers scoured the area where the body was found within the first 48 hours but it had not been looked at since private search expert Peter Faulding investigated it on February 6.
READ MORE: Tragic timeline in search for Nicola Bulley
Efforts had instead focused further downstream, towards the sea.
Lancashire Constabulary said it was unable to confirm whether the body was that of missing Ms Bulley. Formal identification could take several days.
A spokesman added: ‘We are currently treating the death as unexplained. 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.’
It is expected that Mr Ansell or another close relative will now be asked to help identify the body.
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 said.
‘We weren’t searching the reeds, our job was to search the water.’
He said a ‘side scan sonar’ his team used ‘does not penetrate reeds above or below the water’.
Hamish Brown, a retired Scotland Yard detective inspector, said: ‘The identification process isn’t pleasant for anyone. I’m afraid it’s just another line of unpleasant torture for the family, but something nevertheless that must be done.’
Mr Brown explained that it ‘depends on the condition of the body’ whether it can be identified ‘visually’. They will look for other things, like clothing, personal belongings and jewellery as well as examining DNA, he told GB News.
Local councillor Michael Vincent said: ‘I haven’t made contact with the family, but it would be inappropriate to comment further. The not knowing is causing them a lot of pain.’
Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson (left) and Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police update the media on February 15 as police continue their search for Nicola Bulley, 45
The moment a dog walker points out to a spot in the River Wyre, Lancashire, as police arrive on the scene
Yellow ribbons and daffodils adorn the bench where the phone of missing Nicola Bulley was found, on the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre
Sky News reported that the family was ‘incredibly heartbroken by this significant development’. Members of the BringNikkiHome Facebook page uploaded the police statement but disabled comments due to the sensitivity.
READ MORE: REMAINS FOUND IN HUNT FOR NICOLA BULLEY CAUGHT IN REEDS LESS THAN A MILE FROM WHERE SHE WENT MISSING
Ms Bulley’s parents Ernest, 73, and Dot, 72, were last seen leaving a poignant message of hope four days ago, near where she went missing.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the latest developments as ‘heart-breaking and distressing’.
Lancashire police and crime commissioner Andrew Snowden, who has been criticised for his silence over the search, also spoke out in support of the force and Ms Bulley’s family. He tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with Nicola’s family and friends at a difficult time. I’d like to thank the Lancs police officers and staff working on scene and across the force.’
Last night a bunch of daffodils was laid next to a small handful of snowdrops on the wooden bench where Nicola’s mobile phone was left abandoned.
A police helicopter hovered overhead as tearful locals held one another on the bridge overlooking the River Wyre in the heart of St Michael’s. Yellow ribbons, tied to the bridge with messages of hope, flapped in the cold wind.
Dog walker Nicola Harris, 62, said: ‘It’s sad, it’s absolutely horrendous, but I’m so glad if she’s been found so that her family can move on. It’s been such a complex case but at least it would mean the family can get some answers and have her back.’
Another tearful local added: ‘It is the news we have all been dreading, but maybe what we knew deep down. I just hope this discovery can bring the family some peace. We are all reeling as a community.’
The body was spotted by a man and woman going for a Sunday stroll along the river. The spot where it was found was 0.9 miles as the crow flies from the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found, or 1.1 miles following the bends of the river.
Police have in the past week become increasing irate at social media ‘detectives’ descending on quiet St Michael’s and spouting to online audiences their theories as to what happened to Ms Bulley.
The 45-year-old mortgage adviser Nicola Bulley (pictured) vanished during a dog walk in St Michael’s on Wyre
The sun sets this evening over the bench near St.Michael on Wyre, Lancashire, where Nicola Bulley’s phone was found after her disappearance
At least three police cars and a van rushed to the scene, with other cars soon following
Lancashire Police issued the update on its Facebook page and requested Ms Bulley’s family’s privacy be respected
The case has been beset with ‘appalling’ speculation, her family has said, with TikTok detectives rummaging through people’s gardens and making ‘cruel’ and baseless accusations against the mortgage adviser’s loved ones.
Before the discovery was confirmed, a witness said: ‘I drove down Rawcliffe Road for almost a mile. I noticed a man and a woman and two police officers on the embankment.
‘I pulled off at about 11.50am and I heard the man talking to police about something in the undergrowth.
‘Police cars were flying down the road with the blues and twos going. A police officer pulled up a few minutes later and got his drone out.
‘Five minutes later the police helicopter arrived. Officers then asked to me get out so I moved 200 yards down the road.
‘I could still clearly see the man pointing at the riverbank. Then more police cars raced down with the blues and twos going. They cleared the entire road.’
Timeline: Disappearance of Nicola Bulley
At 8.26am Ms Bulley left her home with her two daughters, aged six and nine, dropping them off at school.
She then took her spaniel, Willow, for a walk along the path by the River Wyre at 8.43am, heading towards a gate and bench in the lower field.
She was seen by a dog walker who knew her at around 8.50am, and their pets interacted briefly before they parted ways, according to the force.
At 8.53am, Ms Bulley sent an email to her boss, followed by a message to her friends six minutes later, before logging on to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am.
She was seen by a second witness at 9.10am, the last known sighting.
Her phone was back in the area of the bench at 9.20am before the Teams call ended 10 minutes later, with her mobile remaining logged on after the call.
At 10.50am, Ms Bulley’s family and the school attended by her children were told about her disappearance.
Lancashire Constabulary launched an investigation into Ms Bulley’s whereabouts on the same day and appealed for witnesses to contact them.
Lancashire Constabulary deployed drones, helicopters and police search dogs as part of the major missing person operation.
They were assisted by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as Bowland Pennine mountain rescue team and the North West underwater search team.
Local residents held a meeting at the village hall to organise a search for Ms Bulley at 10.30am on Sunday, according to reports from The Mirror, and around 100 people joined in.
Police urged volunteers to exercise caution, describing the river and its banks as ‘extremely dangerous’ and saying that activity in these areas presented ‘a genuine risk to the public’
Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Constabulary said police were ‘keeping a really open mind about what could have happened’, and that they were not treating Ms Bulley’s disappearance as suspicious.
January 31 Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a potential witness, a man who had been walking a small white fluffy dog near the River Wyre at the time of Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Her family released a statement saying they had been ‘overwhelmed by the support’ in their community, and that her daughters were ‘desperate to have their mummy back home safe’.
Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a second witness who they had identified with the help of the public using CCTV but they told police they did not have any further information to aid their inquiry.
Officers from the North West Police Underwater and Marine support unit searched the area close to where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found, while police divers scoured the River Wyre. Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s family appealed to the public for help tracing her.
Lancashire Police said it was working on the hypothesis that Ms Bulley may have fallen into the River Wyre.
Ms Riley urged against speculation, but said it was ‘possible’ that an ‘issue’ with Ms Bulley’s dog may have led her to the water’s edge.
Lancashire Police announced it wanted to trace a ‘key witness’ who was seen pushing a pram in the area near where Ms Bulley went missing on the morning of her disappearance.
The woman described as a ‘key witness’ by police came forward. The force insisted she was ‘very much being treated as a witness’ as it warned against ‘totally unacceptable’ speculation and abuse on social media.
Peter Faulding, leader of underwater search experts Specialist Group International (SGI), began searching the river after being called in by Ms Bulley’s family.
Ms Bulley’s friends said they hoped the help of a specialist underwater rescue team would give the family answers.
Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s partner Mr Ansell, in a statement released through Lancashire Police, said: ‘It’s been 10 days now since Nicola went missing and I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back.
‘This has been such a tough time for the girls especially but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends, as well as the wider community and I want to thank them for their love and support.’
Police urged people to refrain from indulging in commentary and conspiracy theories about Ms Bulley’s disappearance as speculation increases online.
Police held a press conference over the case and say the mother-of-two was classed as a ‘high-risk’ missing person immediately after she was reported missing due to ‘vulnerabilities.’
They later disclosed Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and perimenopause.
In a statement released through Lancashire Police, Ms Bulley’s family said the focus had become ‘distracted from finding Nikki, and more about speculation and rumours into her private life’ and called for it to end.
Lancashire Police referred itself to the police watchdog over contact the force had with Ms Bulley prior to her disappearance.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman demanded an ‘explanation’ for the disclosure of Ms Bulley’s private information by the force.
Lancashire Police announced it was conducting an internal review into the handling of Ms Bulley’s disappearance and the Information Commissioner said he would ask the force questions about the disclosure.
Ms Braverman met with police leaders to discuss the handling of the investigation after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also expressed ‘concerns’ about the revelation.
Appearing on the morning broadcast round, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt described the police disclosure as ‘shocking’ while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who also wrote to the force over its handling of the case, repeated her concerns about the ‘unusual’ level of private information made public about Ms Bulley.
A new search effort was launched less than a mile from where Ms Bulley vanished.
Later on Sunday, Lancashire Police announced they had found a body in the River Wyre.
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