Nicola Bulley's final hours: How mum-of-two's school run and morning dog walk ended in her death

27 June 2023, 08:01 | Updated: 27 June 2023, 09:41

Nicola Bulley died by drowning, an inquest heard yesterday
Nicola Bulley died by drowning, an inquest heard yesterday. Picture: Handout/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Nicola Bulley died by drowning with no evidence she had been harmed before entering the water, her inquest heard on Tuesday.

It is understood that Ms Bulley was alive when she fell into the River Wyre, Lancashire, but the icy waters may have killed in her in as little as 10 seconds, the inquest heard.

Professor Michael Tipton, an expert giving evidence as part of the inquest into Ms Bulley's death, noted the water temperature would have been around "three to five degrees (in the River Wyre), 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 "entering such water is a painfully cold experience".

She is not believed to have been drinking at the time of her death, while there is also no evidence of foul play.

Read More: Nicola Bulley 'died in less than 10 seconds' inquest hears as expert says 'two breaths of river water' enough to kill

Meanwhile, a witness told the inquest they spotted a "man dressed in black" on the morning of her disappearance, reporting the sighting to police.

According to his statement, Mr Fife saw the 6' 1"man, dressed “all in black and possibly a beanie hat" again on his return, adding that he thought it was strange.

A detailed account of the mum-of-two's final moments before drowning was revealed for the first time at the inquest, indicating Ms Bulley's movements in her final moments.

Timeline of Nicola Bulley's disappearance and death

Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell
Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell. Picture: Handout

8.26am - Ms Bulley leaves her home in Inskip, Lancashire, with her two daughters and dog Willow - captured by Ring doorbell footage

8.34:33am – Ms Bulley's phone is located near St Michael's Primary School, according to mobile phone data analysis, and her black Mercedes is seen on police dash camera footage

8.34:33am-8.41:38am – witnesses see Ms Bulley drop off her daughters around this time, as does CCTV footage

8.41am (approx) – A witness, David Hall, passes the mum-of-two as she walks across the road bridge over the River Wyre towards the start of the riverside path

Read More: ‘She’s struggling’: Nicola Bulley’s partner’s heartbreaking first words as he learned her dog and phone had been found

Nicola Bulley
Nicola Bulley. Picture: social media

8.42:50am – Ms Bulley walks along the path in the direction of the bench near where she fell into water, mobile analysis suggests

8.47am (approx) - Dog walker Richard Fife passes Ms Bulley who walks in the opposite direction to him with her phone in her hands in front of her

8.48:50am - Mobile analysis places Ms Bulley's phone in the lower field

8.53:36am – The mum-of-two sends an email to her boss, Ben Pociacho, about a mortgage client while still in the lower field

The bench where Nicola Bulley's phone was found, on the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire
The bench where Nicola Bulley's phone was found, on the banks of the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire. Picture: Alamy

8.54:27am – Mr Fife is seen on CCTV, where he sees a black-clad man he had seen earlier on the corner near the main road

8.55am (approx) – Claire Chesham, also walking her dog after the school run, sees Ms Bulley and Willow approaching the upper field

8:59:38am – Ms Bulley, now in the upper field, sends a message to Lucie Musella, a mum, about arranging a kids play date

9.01:05am – Ms Bulley joins a work call on her phone while on mute

9.05-9.10am (approx) – Last confirmed sighting of Ms Bulley by Ms Chesham who sees Ms Bulley in the upper field

9.18:01am and 9.18:11am - Analysis shows Ms Bulley used the volume buttons on her phone

Read More: Man 'dressed in black' spotted near Nicola Bulley on morning of disappearance as inquest witnesses recall 'scream'

9.18:41am – Ms Bulley receives a WhatsApp message about a spa day from her sister, though it was not read

9.20:39am-9.20:42am – Notifications from Ms Bulley's phone suggests she was around the bench where her dog Willow was found. This was the last data from her phone for 10 minutes.

9.22am – Fitbit data shows Ms Bulley's heartrate peaks at around 100BPM

9.33am (approx) – Penny Fletcher finds Willow, near the river with an iPhone on the bench

9.36am-9.55am – Helen O'Neill hears a scream coming from the riverside path from her garden

9.45:32am – Penny Fletcher tries to call a local vet's about Willow before passing on a message to fellow dog walker in the area

9.50am (approx) – Veronica Claesen also hears a scream coming from the riverside path, while she is at the village tennis club near the primary school

10.10am (approx) – Roger Jones finds Willow tied to the bench, as well as Ms Bulley's iPhone on the bench. He hears from his wife that Penny Fletcher tied the dog to the bench after finding her.

Members of the public line the road into St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, with missing posters of Nicola Bulley, 45
Members of the public line the road into St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, with missing posters of Nicola Bulley, 45. Picture: Alamy

10.30am (approx) – Mr and Mrs Jones meet at the bench.

10.32:13am - Ms Bulley's phone is moved - indicated by the number of location readings increasing

10.40am (approx) – Willow is taken to the caravan park by the group

10.40:26am – Paul Ansell, Ms Bulley's partner, calls her phone - the first of six calls in seven minutes

10.48:06am – Mr Ansell sends a message to Ms Bulley which reads: 'Have you got lost?'

10.50am (approx) – Anne-Marie Fletcher identifies Willow as Ms Bulley's dog. She calls her daughter's school

10.54:15am – St Michael's Primary School ring Mr Ansell

10.56am (approx) – Mr Ansell leaves his home for St Michael's, Ring doorbell footage shows

10.57:25am – Mr Ansell tells Ms Fletcher, according to Mrs Jones, 'She's struggling'.

11.00:39am – Mr Ansell reports his partner as missing

11.10am (approx) – Mr Ansell reaches the bench where Willow and his partner's phone were found

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