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'We need a breakthrough': Nicola Bulley's father tells of 'daily struggle' as hunt enters fourth week
17 February 2023, 14:07 | Updated: 17 February 2023, 14:57
Nicola Bulley's father has said every day is a struggle, three weeks on from the mother-of-two's disappearance.
She vanished in St Michael's on Wyre in Lancashire on the morning of January 27 as she walked along a riverside towpath.
Now, as the search enters its fourth week, her heartbroken father Ernie Bulley told Sky News: "Every day is a struggle," he told Sky News.
"[We're] no further on from three weeks ago.
"[We] just need a breakthrough to give us some hope."
His comments come as a row broke out over Lancashire Police's decision to reveal Ms Bulley had been suffering from problems with alcohol and menopause before she disappeared.
The Home Office and Information Commissioner have spoken to the force, while the Independent Office for Police Conduct has been in touch because Lancashire visited the family on January 10.
The force said in a statement: "Sadly, it is clear from speaking to Paul and the family that Nicola had in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause and that these struggles had resurfaced over recent months.
"This caused some real challenges for Paul [Ansell, her partner] and the family.
"As a result of those issues, a response car staffed by both police and health professionals attended a report of concern for welfare at Nicola’s home address on January 10th.
"No one has been arrested in relation to this incident, but it is being investigated."
That statement was criticised for giving away an unnecessary amount of detail, but the force defended it by saying officers needed to stop misinformation being put out about her.
The case has attracted a deluge of online rumours and visitors to the town, including social media influencers and amateur detectives. It's led some residents to hire security amid reports people have been peering into their windows.
However, her family said in a statement: "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 statement on Thursday said.
"The police know the truth about Nikki and now the public need to focus on finding her.
"Due to the peri menopause Nikki suffered with significant side effects such as brain fog, restless sleep and was taking HRT [hormone replacement therapy] to help but this was giving her intense headaches which caused Nikki to stop taking the HRT thinking that may have helped her but only ended up causing this crisis.
"The public focus has to be on finding her and not making up wild theories about her personal life."
However, politicians and ex-cops criticised the move on Thursday, while an anonymous friend said he was angry on behalf of the missing 45-year-old mortgage adviser.
Police force refer themselves to watchdog over prior contact with Nicola Bulley
Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police's chief commissioner, did not condemn Lancashire Police but said it was "rare".
He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Friday: "Any time you're releasing personal information you need to be very, very cautious.
"Is it absolutely necessary for a policing purpose to help achieve the aim of finding a missing woman?
"They've made that call, they've referred themselves to the IOPC, time will tell whether that was the right call in that circumstance.
"I don’t know what information they have in front of them investigating the case. So, we're all judging that from outside.
"Let's focus on finding her and let's see if the IOPC find that Lancashire got it right or got it wrong."
Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "I was very surprised and I don't understand the reasons for it.
"I wouldn't want to comment further without knowing the decisions Lancashire Police have taken, and I know they are dealing with a complex case and they've had lots of social media speculation around it.
"But it was a very unusual thing to do, so it does obviously raise some significant concerns.
"I think, look, the most important thing to do is to support Nicola's family and to support the continuing investigation into what has happened."