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Nicola Bulley died accidentally, inquest finds - as partner says she was trying to put a harness on dog
27 June 2023, 14:49 | Updated: 27 June 2023, 17:28
Nicola Bulley died accidentally and ‘almost immediately’ after falling into the River Wyre, an inquest into her death has concluded.
Recording his verdict, Coroner Dr James Adeley said: "I conclude that Nicola Jane Bulley died an accidental death."
He noted Ms Bulley fell into the River Wyre around 9.22am on Jan 27 and "died almost immediately".
It follows final submission's from Sophie Cartwright KC, the lawyer representing Ms Bulley's family, who said that Ms Bulley's death was a "tragic accident" despite the "rumour and suspicion" surrounding her disappearance.
Ms Bulley's family also requested that the 45-year-old's death be recorded as accidental prior to the coroner's verdict.
The mother-of-two's body was found in the River Wyre on February 19 - around a mile from where she vanished while out walking her dog.
"My view is Nikki arrived at the bench having taken 273 steps after 9:15am," the coroner concluded.
"At 9:22 her Fitbit recorded a significant spike in heart rate which might be consistent with cold water shock.
The coroner concluded there was no indication that Ms Bulley had any intention of taking her own life, adding: "I discount a conclusion of suicide as there is no evidence to support this conclusion."
He added it would have been “almost impossible to swim against the current” in the section of river where Ms Bulley fell in - a section of river that measured 4.6 metres deep.
The river remained too deep for Ms Bulley to be able to stand for a further 40-metres - a distance the mother-of-two could have taken two to three minutes to reach.
The verdict concludes an inquest which saw evidence submitted by various drowning experts, police divers, members of the public and Ms Bulley's family - including Nicola's partner Paul Ansell.
As part of the two-day inquest, evidence was submitted by experts who noted just two breaths of water would have been enough to kill her.
Evidence submitted by Ms Bulley's GP, Dr Rebecca Gray, noted her HRT medication "overloaded her brain".
It follows conversations between Ms Bulley and her GP in which she noted she was “struggling with her sleep” while on the hormone replacement medication and felt it was resulting in “anxiety and low mood”.
It came as her tearful partner, Paul Ansell, and sister, Louise Cunningham, told the hearing at Preston County Hall of concerns about the 45-year-old mother-of-two's struggle with the menopause and increase in alcohol intake in the month before her death.
A widespread search of the river was conducted following her disappearance while out walking her dog in St Michael's on the Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27.
Professor Michael Tipton, an expert giving evidence as part of the inquest into Ms Bulley's death, noted the water temperature of the River Wyre would have been around "three to five degrees, so there would be a particularly powerful cold-shock response."
"For somebody of Nicola’s size, it would have taken one or two breaths in of water to be a lethal dose."He added that Ms Bulley would have died "less than 10 seconds" after hitting the water.
Speaking after the conclusion of the inquest, Terry Wilcox, the inquest solicitor issued a reminder to the public, he said: “Sadly we feel the need again to raise and address the issue of social media.
“It’s upsetting that we’ve continued to receive negative targeted messages and still widely inaccurate speculation being shared on numerous platforms.
“We encourage people to look at the facts, the evidence which we have heard during the inquest and the conclusion reached by the coroner to ignore any amateur views and opinions and to be mindful of the impact words bring.”