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Nicola Bulley 'died in less than 10 seconds' inquest hears as expert says 'two breaths of river water' enough to kill
26 June 2023, 14:00 | Updated: 26 June 2023, 14:56
Two breaths of water would have been a "lethal dose" for Nicola Bulley an inquest has heard, with experts noting she would have died "less than 10 seconds" after hitting the water.
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".
The comments come as part of an inquest into the mother-of-two's death, with Police diver PC Thackeray, from the police's North West underwater diving team, giving evidence alongside drowning experts Professor Mike Tipton and Dr Paddy Morgan.
Ms Bulley's cause of death was confirmed as drowning, with Coroner Dr Adeley confirming that Ms Bulley had not been drinking before her death.
Her body was found in the River Wyre on February 19 - around a mile from where the mother-of-two vanished.
It followed a widespread search of the river following her disappearance while out walking her dog in St Michael's on the Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27.
The inquest, taking place at County Hall in Preston, Lancashire, also heard from Home Office pathologist Dr James Adeley.
As part of the inquest, PC Thackery said it would have taken anyone falling into the river "two to three minutes" before arriving at the first point where a person is able to climb out.
The coroner added: "That’s an awfully long time in very cold water."
The coroner then asked: "If you were in the water and trying to climb out, would it be possible to find a foothold on [the bricks]?"
PC Thackery replied: "No not at all… it's very difficult to get out of the water here."
"If you have fallen and gone over the edge of the steep section are you going to stop before you hit the water?" questioned the coroner.
PC Thackery replied: "No. You would just go into the water."
It comes as PC Thackery estimated that Ms Bulley travelled down the fast flowing river at around a "metre a second".
"If you're not used to it then entering water at that temperature would lead to cold water shock," noted PC Matthew Thackeray, adding the water temperature was around four degrees when Miss Bulley entered the water.
Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who carried out the post mortem, gave her cause of death as drowning.
Professor Tipton also added that he temperature the River Wyre was on the day Ms Bulley went missing, a person would have lost consciousness within around 25 seconds, adding: "It is very rapid incapacitation."
At the time of her disappearance, Ms Bulley's family called in private underwater search specialists amid a conspiratorial social media frenzy.
Around 100 locals meet in the village hall to organise a search party. Police urge caution, describing the river and its banks as "extremely dangerous".
It follows Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who carried out the post mortem, noting that Ms Bulley's cause of death was listed as drowning.
The expert said she believed Nicola was alive when she entered the water and confirmed there was no sign she had been assaulted before her death and no indication of third party involvement.
Dr Armour said the internal examination found “classic signs” of asphyxia, which happens when the body is deprived of oxygen, but there was no sign of trauma to Nicola's neck.
As part of the ongoing inquest, PC Thackery added: "I have attended a number of deaths where the water is chest deep and with a flat bottom with no flow to the water.
"You could avoid drowning by keeping calm and standing up, however, it doesn't happen like that when you suddenly enter cold water.
"You gasp and you breathe in water and these drownings could have been prevented if they had kept calm and kept your head above the water, but it’s never that simple.
"In this case you can’t put your foot down, the river was moving and even if you got to the point of safety it’s difficult to climb out."
An independent review of Lancashire Police’s handling of the case is currently under way by the College of Policing, ordered by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden following the discovery of Ms Bulley's body.
The inquest is expected to last two days.