Rishi Sunak 'concerned' over private details shared in Nicola Bulley case as police force set to hold internal review

18 February 2023, 01:05 | Updated: 18 February 2023, 01:07

Lancashire Constabulary has come under fire for making Ms Bulley's struggles with alcohol and the menopause public
Lancashire Constabulary has come under fire for making Ms Bulley's struggles with alcohol and the menopause public. Picture: Alamy/Social media

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has said he is "concerned" about the police decision to release private details in the Nicola Bulley case.

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The PM said he was "concerned that private information was put into the public domain" by officers during a press conference on Wednesday.

He added that he was "pleased that the police are looking at how that happened in the investigation".

Lancashire Police came under fire for what was labelled a "sexist" error when they disclosed information about Ms Bulley's struggles with alcohol and the menopause.

A source close to Home Secretary Suella Braverman previously said she was also "concerned" and demanded an explanation from police.

Confirming he agreed with Ms Braverman, the PM told broadcasters: "Well I agree with the Home Secretary, and like her I was concerned that private information was put into the public domain.

"I'm pleased that the police are looking at how that happened in the investigation.

"Obviously my thoughts are with Nicola's friends and family and the focus must now be on continuing to try and find her."

Read more: 'This is not right': Dog walker reveals moment he found Nicola Bulley’s phone on the day she disappeared

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

Bulley with her dog
Bulley with her dog. Picture: Social media

A source close to the Home Secretary initially 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 Home Office has requested regular updates about the way in which police are handling the case.

A spokesperson said: "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."

Lancashire Police is also set to conduct an internal review into the investigation.

Police search teams on the banks of the River Wyre
Police search teams on the banks of the River Wyre. Picture: Alamy

It comes after the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said on Thursday it had received a referral from the force regarding the contact officers had with Ms Bulley on January 10 - before she went missing.

In a statement confirming the internal review, a police spokeswoman said: "A review of the investigation is diarised and will be conducted by our Head of Crime Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables.

"She is also PIP 4 accredited and has attended the national reviewer course."

Ms Bulley vanished after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school on January 27 in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire.

She was last seen just after 9am taking her usual route with her springer spaniel Willow, alongside the River Wyre.

Only her phone, still connected to a work call, was found just over 20 minutes later on a bench, with her dog running loose.

Rishi Sunak said he is "concerned" over police conduct
Rishi Sunak said he is "concerned" over police conduct. Picture: Alamy

Ms Bulley's family has urged people to stop "making wild theories up" about her and called for an end to the "speculation and rumours" about her private life in a statement issued on Thursday.

The decision by the force to reveal details of Ms Bulley's "vulnerabilities" had earlier been criticised by MPs and campaign groups.

The Conservative police and crime commissioner for Lancashire, Andrew Snowden, said the force was being "as transparent as they can be" following the press conference.

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