Nicola Bulley timeline: Latest updates as police continue inquest

12 April 2023, 10:10

Nicola Bulley alongside picture of the bench and river she went missing at
Nicola Bulley's cause of death is yet to be confirmed as police continue their investigation. Picture: Facebook/Alamy

By Zoe Adams

Nicola Bulley became a household name when she tragically went missing in January 2023 - but what was her cause of death? And what's the latest in the investigations?

Nicola Bulley went missing while walking her dog in Lancashire on the morning of Friday, 27, January.

After dropping her children, two daughters aged six and nine, off at school, Nicola, 45, took her dog for a walk by the River Wye in the village of St Michael's on Wyre. It was the last time she was seen.

Three weeks after she went missing, police confirmed they had discovered a body in the river, just one mile from where she went missing, and identified it as Nicola Bully using dental records.

Partner Paul Ansell at the time said the family were in "agony" after the discovery. But what has happened since? And have the post mortem results come back?

Related article: Police divers return to river where Nicola Bulley’s body was found as they investigate cause of death

Related article: Man arrested over footage shot inside police cordon on day Nicola Bulley's body was found

Here's the most recent updates and a timeline of events so far as police continue their investigation into what happened to Nicola Bulley and her cause of death.

Police searching river in missing Nicola Bulley case
Nicola Bulley: Police and volunteers played a huge role in looking for the missing mum. Picture: Alamy

Friday 27 January - Nicola Bulley reported missing

She was reported missing on Friday at 10:15am after a walker found her dog loose along the local river.

She was last seen at 9:15am walking east along a towpath alongside the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, where she was walking her Springer Spaniel Willow following the school drop off.

Her mobile phone was found on a nearby bench and police have confirmed it was still connected to a Teams conference call when it was found. The dog's harness and lead was also found on a bench.

Her pet dog, a springer spaniel, was found loose and in an 'agitated' state between the river and bench and was found around an hour after she was last seen.

Nicola is described as white, 5ft 3in, with light brown shoulder-length hair.

At the time of going missing, she was wearing a long black gilet jacket with a hood, black jeans and olive green ankle wellington boots.

Ms Bulley has a southern accent as she's originally from Chelmsford, Essex.

Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Police said: “It was on a meeting call, and that was still live it was connected to the conference call and that hadn’t been terminated.”

Asked about lines of inquiry, she said: "The police are keeping a really open mind about what could have happened but we do believe that the likelihood is that Nicola has gone missing and this is not a crime inquiry, but we are keeping an open mind."

Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 January - Nicola Bulley search continues

Over the weekend, extensive searches were carried out to find the missing mum as Lancashire Police used a helicopter, drones and police dogs.

The Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team and the North West Underwater Search Team have also offered support in the search.

Local community members and her husband Paul also organised search groups over the weekend.

Partner Paul Ansell and missing mum Nicola Bulley
Partner Paul Ansell described the period she went missing as "perpetual hell". Picture: Facebook

Monday 30 January - Police press conference

Chief Inspector Chris Barton, of Lancashire Police, said: "Nicola has now been missing for two days and we are extremely concerned about her. Firstly, if anybody saw her on Friday morning and has not yet been spoken to by police, or if anybody has any other information about where she might be, please get in touch with us straight away.

"Enquiries are very much ongoing and we have a team of detectives working tirelessly to establish the circumstances around her disappearance, in addition to a large team of police officers, partner agency and volunteer groups on the ground searching the area around where she was last seen."

He added: 'We are following a number of lines of enquiry and are keeping an open mind at this stage about what has occurred.

Her partner Paul said: "It is just perpetual hell. It is just utter disbelief. We are living through this but it doesn't feel real.

"All we can say is we need to find her," he told the MailOnline. "She's got two little girls that need their mummy home. We have got to get some good news now."

Tuesday 31st January - key witness comes forward

Lancashire Police said on Tuesday they were looking for a "potential key witness" - a man with a small, fluffy white dog.

The man has since been identified, and officers said they were speaking to him on Tuesday evening.

Her family also issued a statement which said: "We have been overwhelmed by the support from our community and would like to thank everyone for their ongoing efforts to help us find Nicola.

"The girls are desperate to have their mummy back home safe with them and your ongoing efforts have provided comfort to them whilst we await news on Nicola."

Police searching a graveyard for missing Nicola Bulley
Police have face criticism for how they handled the Nicola Bulley case. Picture: Alamy

Wednesday 1 February - Dad tells daughters ‘mummy’s lost’

In the latest updates, Nicola's partner has revealed he's had to tell their daughters that "mummy is lost".

Nicola has been missing for five days now and her family has said: "Paul had to tell the girls what was going on. He just told them, ''Mummy's lost''. It's heartbreaking.”

An abandoned house has been searched as part of the hunt for missing mum Nicola.

Kev Camplin of Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue told The Mirror: "The abandoned house is right opposite the bench on the other side of the river, over a 10ft garden wall.

"We didn’t go into the house, as a volunteer search and rescue team we don’t actually go into buildings. We might go into a barn or something. We leave that to the police.

February 2nd - father shares daughter's heartbreaking question

Seven days after Nicola went missing, her partner and parents have shared how their family is really coping.

Her father told the Mirror he is struggling to be in the same room as his granddaughters, aged six and nine, as they ask: “Where mummy is, and when is mummy coming home?”

Her parents, Ernest, 73 and Dot, 72 told the paper yesterday: “We will never stop looking for her.”

They said she was in good spirits last time they spoke and that her disappearance was totally out of character.

Police have also appealed for a potential witness to come forward.

Officers want to speak to a woman seen on local CCTV believed to have been in the area at the time Ms Bulley went missing.

She is described as wearing a red and white coat with a fir hood, light-coloured trousers and a light bobble hat. She was walking a small, white dog.

She was seen on CCTV at around 8.48am on Allotment Lane, close to where Nicola was last seen and was also seen near to the gate at the end of Allotment Lane.

February 3rd - police focus on river theory

Police confirmed they were working on the theory Nicola may have fallen into the river after being led there by her dog, Willow.

They urged people to remain vigilant and to look out for items of her clothing.

February 4th - family dismisses river theory

Nicola Bulley's friend, Ms White, has stepped forward to dismiss the river theory and claimed there was no evidence to support this idea. In a Facebook post, she urged people to "keep an open mind".

Police also confirmed they were looking for another key witness - a woman pushing a pram in the area on the morning Ms Bulley went missing.

Editor of Lancashire Post shares latest on Nicola Bulley disappearance

February 5th - specialist underwater team get underway

With the family's permission, divers from Specialist Group International (SGI) were allowed to join the investigation on Sunday evening.

After initially being denied to join the search, world-renowned forensics expert Peter Faulding and a team are now taking part.

Faulding tweeted on Sunday night: "We have just heard from the family of Nicola Bulley to confirm that the underwater search team from SGI will be deployed to assist @LancsPolice in the search."

Earlier on Sunday, newly released doorbell footage showed missing mother Nicola loading the car before a school run on the day she disappeared.

The wanted witness also stepped forward to give her account of events.

February 6th - Divers baffled by Ms Bulley disappearance

A diver brought in to help police search for missing Nicola Bulley has admitted he is "baffled" by her disappearance after searching part of a river and thinks she might not even be there.

Peter Faulding, who brought his team from Specialist Group International (SGI) to Lancashire to help the operation, said he will be "confident" soon that she is not in the area "at all".

February 7th - latest police conference reveals new updates

Lancashire Police Superintendent Sally Riley held the latest press conference on the Nicola Bulley case today and revealed thousands of pieces of information have been submitted by members of the public. She confirmed a team of 40 detectives were investigating approximately 500 lines of enquiry.

Ms Riley also confirmed, that despite questioning over 700 drivers in the area at that time, they still believed the mum-of-two fell into the river.

She said: "This is normal in a missing person inquiry and does not indicate that there is any suspicious element to this story."The inquiry team remains fully open-minded to any information that may indicate where Nicola is or what happened to her."

February 8th - Paul Ansell visits river

Partner Paul Ansell went to the last spot Nicola was seen and spent ten minutes talking to police at the scene. He spoke of the "perpetual hell" he and his family were going through not knowing where she was.

Diver Mr Faulding said he was "baffled" by his lack of findings in the river.

February 14th - stained blue glove found

A "stained" glove has been found in the hunt for missing mum-of-two Nicola Bulley just yards away from where she vanished.

The key piece of evidence was handed to police and taken away in an evidence bag last week, according to the Sun.

It does not belong to Ms Bulley but police are keeping the evidence on file.

Expert diving teams at river Nicola Bulley went missing
Expert diving teams discovered a body in the search for Nicola Bulley three weeks after she went missing. Picture: Alamy

February 15th - Police reveal Nicola Bulley is high risk

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Lancashire Police said Ms Bulley is being treated as a "high-risk" missing person with "specific vulnerabilities", but originally refused to elaborate further.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Police has since confirmed that Ms Bulley had "suffered with some significant issues with alcohol" before she went missing along with struggles surrounding the menopause.

The police have been criticised for releasing this information with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper admitting she was "surprised" Lancashire Police revealed her struggles and described the move as "unusual".

February 16th - Nicola's family call for end of 'appalling' speculation

Her family have stepped forward and asked for all "appalling" speculation about her private life to come to an end.

In a new statement, they said: "As a family, we were aware beforehand that Lancashire Police, last night, released a statement with some personal details about our Nikki.

"Although we know that Nikki would not have wanted this, there are people out there speculating and threatening to sell stories about her. This is appalling and needs to stop.

"The police know the truth about Nikki and now the public need to focus on finding her."

February 19th - Body found in the search for Nicola Bulley

Lancashire Police made the discovery in the River Wyre about a mile away from where Ms Bulley went missing.

Police said in a statement: "This morning, Sunday, 19 February, you may be aware of police activity around the river near to St Michaels. We want to provide you with an update on that activity.

"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. Procedures to identify the body are on-going. 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."

February 20th - Nicola Bulley identified

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, assistant chief constable Peter Lawson confirmed the identity of the body.

He thanked everyone who had helped with the investigation as the force looked ahead to finding more answers for Ms Bulley's family.

"Sadly, we are now able to confirm that yesterday we recovered Nicola Bulley from the River Wyre," he said.

"Nicola's family have been informed and are of course devastated. Our thoughts are with them at this time as well as with all her loved ones and the wider community.

February 21st - Family pay tribute

Following the tragic news that Nikki was in the river, her family stepped forward to pay a heartfelt tribute.

A snippet read: "We will never be able to comprehend what Nikki had gone through in her last moments and that will never leave us.

"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. The community support in St Michael’s, 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."

February 22nd - Watchdog launches inquiry

The police watchdog has confirmed it is launching an investigation into contact between Nicola Bulley and Lancashire Police days before she went missing.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct launched an investigation into a welfare check on Nicola carried out by Lancashire Police on January 10, days before she was last seen, the watchdog said.

Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden further revealed he had asked the College of Policing to carry out a “full, independent review” into the handling of the Nicola Bulley case.

Footage shared to social media by YouTuber Maria Solarz was shot close to the spot where mother-of-two Bulley disappeared
Footage shared to social media by YouTuber Maria Solarz was shot close to the spot where mother-of-two Bulley disappeared. Picture: LBC

March 8th - Man arrested over footage shot inside police cordon

A man has been arrested over footage shot from inside a police cordon on the day the body of Nicola Bulley was found in the River Wyre in Lancashire.

The 34-year-old man from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, was arrested on suspicion of malicious communications offences and perverting the course of justice in connection with the investigation to find Ms Bulley, Lancashire Constabulary said.

April 11th - Police return to river to investigate Nicola Bulley cause of death

Police divers returned to the Lancashire river where Nicola Bulley disappeared, six weeks on from the discovery of her body.

Footage shared to social media by YouTuber Maria Solarz shows the divers returning to the River Wyre, with one diver filmed "floating on his back" along a stretch of river.The return of police units comes amid reports the coroner is attempting to confirm her cause of death.

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