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Nicola Bulley's furious friend says cops only revealed menopause struggles 'to deflect attention from lack of progress'
17 February 2023, 10:38 | Updated: 17 February 2023, 11:02
A friend of Nicola Bulley is "angry" for her after Lancashire Police revealed her struggles with alcohol and menopause.
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The force said it wanted to dispel some of the rumours that have circulated online and drawn amateur sleuths and social media influencers to the area, fascinated by the three-week-old case.
But the decision was condemned for revealing too much about Ms Bulley's personal life at a time when her family is already traumatised.
A friend, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Mirror: "I feel angry for Nikki. She’s a beautiful, kind, loving person. One of the best kind of friends you could wish for.
"This has painted her in an unfair light. I think the police have done this to shift the focus onto this rather than on them and their lack of progress."
They said: "I think they want people to buy into their theory that she went into the river. I do fear that the focus will be on this now rather than trying to find Nikki.
"We really need to focus on finding out what has happened and where she has gone. Focus needs to be given to the areas not covered by CCTV and following up on those dash cams."
The friend also said they didn't blame the amateur sleuths and social media users who have been attracted to the village - despite Wyre Council's leader saying some residents have hired external security after people peered into their homes.
"I think the TikTokers are taking the police away from what they need to be doing and wasting valuable resources," they said.
"However, I doubt it would have made much difference to the information that has been released. The police have released this info the shift the focus off them. This would still be the case without them."
The force had said: "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 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."
It came after Home Secretary Suella Braverman was "concerned" over the decision to reveal personal details about the 45-year-old mortgage adviser.
The Home Office has since requested regular updates about the way in which police were handling the case, with a spokesperson saying: "Our thoughts are with Nicola Bulley's family at this incredibly difficult time.
"The Home Secretary and Policing Minister are receiving regular updates from Lancashire Police on its handling of this case, including why personal details about Nicola was briefed out at this stage of the investigation."
A source close to the Home Secretary told the Daily Mail: "She was concerned by the disclosure of Nicola Bulley’s personal information by Lancashire police and asked the force for an explanation, which came yesterday evening."
The force is understood to have told the Home Office that it made the move to put a stop to rumours circulating. But government sources said ministers were still not "wholly satisfied".
The Information Commissioner will also speak to the force.
Ms Bulley's family said on Thursday that efforts to find her were being taken off track by rumours about her personal life with partner Paul Ansell.
They defended the police decision to release details, saying they had to stop speculation - but admitted Ms Bulley would not want it to have been put out.
Following the backlash, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed that Lancashire Police had referred itself to the police watchdog over its visit to Nicola Bulley's family home on January 10.
An IOPC statement read: "This afternoon we received a referral from Lancashire Constabulary regarding contact the force had with Nicola Bulley on 10 January, prior to her disappearance.
"We are assessing the available information to determine whether an investigation into that contact may be required and if so, who should conduct that investigation."
The family's statement on Thursday afternoon said: "It has now been three weeks since Nikki went missing. We, as a family, believe that the public focus has become distracted from finding Nikki, and more about speculation and rumours into her and Paul's private life.
"As a family, we were aware beforehand that Lancashire Police, last night, released a statement with some personal details about our Nikki.
"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 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.
"Despite what some media outlets and individuals are suggesting, we are being updated daily and receive support from our family liaison officers.
"Nikki is such a wonderful daughter, sister, partner and mother and is missed dearly - we all need you back in our lives.
"Nikki, we hope you are reading this and know that we love you so much and your girls want a cuddle. We all need you home. You can reach out to us, or you can contact MissingPeople.org.uk. Don’t be scared, we all love you so very much."
On Friday, the Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast it is rare to release such personal details.
He said: "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."
The disappearance has caused a rife of online conspiracy theories and led to amateur sleuths and social media personalities descending on the quiet village to "investigate" what happened.
Ms Bulley went missing on January 27 as she walked her dog on a towpath near the River Wyre in St Michael's on the Wyre in Lancashire.
Police have primarily focused on the theory entered the water near a bench where her phone was found.
But searches near the bench and downstream have not found her in that time. Mr Ansell has claimed he does not believe she is in the water.