Police searching for missing mother Nicola Bulley find body in river a mile from where she disappeared

19 February 2023, 12:43 | Updated: 19 February 2023, 15:14

Police have found a body
Police have found a body. Picture: Handout/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Police searching for missing mother Nicola Bulley have found a body in the river near where she disappeared.

Officers did not confirm that it was definitely Ms Bulley, who has been missing for 23 days, and said that they were working to identify the body.

Lancashire Police made the discovery in the River Wyre about a mile away from where Ms Bulley went missing on January 27.

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.

Officers looking for Nicola Bulley
Officers looking for Nicola Bulley. Picture: Alamy

"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.

It comes after officers launched a massive search for Ms Bulley on Sunday.

A male and female dog walker are said to have pointed out a spot in the River Wyre, less than a mile from where Ms Bulley went missing, before officers in two police cars drove down.

A police helicopter was seen circling above the area.losing the roads off. Senior investigating officer Rebecca Smith later arrived at the scene, with divers working in the river.

A photographer at the scene said before the discovery was made: "It all happened so fast. Police have sealed all the roads off."

They told the Mirror: "A massive search is underway. There are police drones and police cars everywhere".

Dog walker Ron found Nicola Bulley's phone and her dog Willow
Dog walker Ron found Nicola Bulley's phone and her dog Willow. Picture: Social Media

A witness told the Mail Online: "I noticed a man and a woman and two police officers on the embankment.

"I pulled off at about 11.50am and I heard the man talking to police about something in the undergrowth.'Police cars were flying down the road with the blues and twos going.

"A police officer pulled up a few minutes later and got his drone out.

"Five minutes later the police helicopter arrived. Officers then asked to me get out so I moved 200 yards down the road. I could still clearly see the man pointing at the riverbank.

"Then more police cars raced down with the blues and twos going. They cleared the entire road."

Ms Bulley vanished in St Michael's on Wyre in Lancashire on the morning of January 27 as she walked along a riverside towpath. Police maintained that their main working hypothesis was that Ms Bulley was in the river.

Lancashire Police brought in a senior detective from the National Crime Agency (NCA) this week, who most recently led a team of investigators in the case of murdered police community support officer Julia James, according to the Sunday Times.

The NCA investigator told Lancashire Police to bring in a squad of top experts, including a digital media specialist, forensic clinical psychologists, and a dog behavioural specialist, as they continue their search more than three weeks after she was last seen.

Officers were also criticised for their handling of Ms Bulley's case after revealing she had been suffering with "significant" alcohol issues in the months before her disappearance, brought on by her "ongoing struggles with the menopause".

But missing persons expert Charlie Hedges said that "nobody goes missing without a reason, and understanding what's going on in someone's life is very, very important.:

Read More: 'We need a breakthrough': Nicola Bulley's father tells of 'daily struggle' as hunt enters fourth week

Read More: Nicola Bulley's furious friend says cops only revealed menopause struggles 'to deflect attention from lack of progress'

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

A spokesperson for Lancashire Police later revealed that she had "suffered with some significant issues with alcohol" before she went missing.

Nicola Bulley has been missing for more than three weeks
Nicola Bulley has been missing for more than three weeks. Picture: Facebook

"Nicola’s family continue to be our absolute focus and our thoughts remain with them," a spokesperson for Lancashire Police said.

The Home Office and Information Commissioner have since spoken to the force, while the Independent Office for Police Conduct has been in touch because Lancashire visited the family on January 10.

Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police's chief commissioner, did not condemn Lancashire Police but said it was "rare" to release such details.

Nick Ferrari speaks to Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

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.

Read More: Nicola Bulley's furious friend says cops only revealed menopause struggles 'to deflect attention from lack of progress

Candles illuminate a photo of missing woman Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell at St Michael's Church in St Michael's on Wyre
Candles illuminate a photo of missing woman Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul Ansell at St Michael's Church in St Michael's on Wyre. Picture: Getty

"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."

Now, with the search in its fourth week, her heartbroken father Ernie Bulley told Sky News: "Every day is a struggle," he told Sky.

"[We're] no further on from three weeks ago."[We] just need a breakthrough to give us some hope."

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