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Watchdog launches inquiry into police visit to Nicola Bulley as inquest hears she was 'identified by dental records'
22 February 2023, 12:20 | Updated: 22 February 2023, 15:42
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.
A spokesperson said: "Following a referral by Lancashire Constabulary on Thursday, we have started an independent investigation regarding contact the force had with Nicola Bulley on January 10, 2023.
"We were notified by the force that an officer attended the family home on that date as part of a welfare check. Our thoughts are with Ms Bulley’s family and friends, and all of those affected by her death. Our investigation is in its very early stages."
And 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.
The announcement comes after the opening of her inquest at Lancashire Coroner's Court heard the mother-of-two was identified by dental records after lying undiscovered in a river for 23 days.
Police confirmed on Monday that the body found in the river near St Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire was the missing mother-of-two.
Nicola, 45, had been missing for more than three weeks with a major search operation launched for her.
Her body was discovered in reeds in a stretch of river that had already been searched by police. She was found by two dog walkers.
Senior coroner Dr James Adeley said he had contacted consultant maxillofacial surgeon Ian Edwards to ask him to compare dental records obtained by police from the Great Eccleston dental surgery.
He said: "He examined the body that was located in the River Wyre near Rawcliffe Road in St Michael's on Wyre at 2.15pm on February 20."
Dr Adeley said the surgeon found restorative work carried out was identical.
He said: "I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities, and more, that positive identification has been made."
The coroner said remaining evidence gathered by police and the post-mortem examination required "further evaluation" and a full inquest was likely to be held in June, once availability of a Home Office pathologist had been checked.
He said: "This will allow time to collate the facts of the case and allow the experts involved to finalise the findings from investigations that still need to be undertaken."
Amid ongoing criticism of the search effort, Peter Faulding, the head of Specialist Group International, said he was “100 per cent sure” Ms Bulley was not in the river after his team searched it during the second week of her disappearance.
He went on to say it was not in his ‘remit’ to search reeds at the side of the river.
Experts have said they doubt her body would have moved far up and down the river. A professor, who declined to be named, told the Telegraph that he believed she would have been in the same spot throughout the extensive search operation.
“I would suspect they [search teams] just missed it.”
A second theory is that her body gradually moved downstream but was not found due to muddy conditions and murky water.
Yesterday it emerge Nicola sent a text message to a friend to arrange a playdate before logging into a Teams call, which she was still logged into at the time of her disappearance.
The call ended at 9.30am when her phone was recovered.
She send the message to her friend at 8.57am, shortly before joining the call.
The last sighing of her was at 9.10am. Around 25 minutes later her phone and her dog’s harness were found on a riverside bench.
Her dog, a springer spaniel called Willow, was found nearby in an ‘agitated’ state.
Lancashire Police have urged the public not to spread ‘misinformation’ and ‘false rumours’ about the case.