Nicola Bulley's cause of death revealed as inquest hears she was alive when she entered river

26 June 2023, 11:50 | Updated: 26 June 2023, 11:52

Inquest to begin into the death of Nicola Bulley
Inquest to begin into the death of Nicola Bulley. Picture: Alamy/Social media

By StephenRigley

Nicola Bulley died from drowning and was alive when she entered the water, an inquest heard today.

Ms Bulley, 45, had vanished after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school, then taking her dog for a walk along the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27.

Her disappearance sparked a social media frenzy.Tragically, her body was found in the river on February 19 - three weeks after she vanished. The mum-of-two had to be identified through her dental records after the sad discovery was made.

Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who carried out the post mortem, gave her cause of death 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.

The court was also told "flecks and fragments of dirt" were found inside Nicola's throat and there was water in and around her lungs, which are "typical features" seen in drowning.

Nicola Bulley
Nicola Bulley. Picture: Lancashire Police
Police searching for Nicola Bulley
Police searching for Nicola Bulley. Picture: Alamy

Read More: TikTok ‘detective’ accused of filming Nicola Bulley’s body suing police after being arrested for 'stalking locals'

Read More: Police cleared by information watchdog for releasing Nicola Bulley's medical history

Read More: What we know about death of Nicola Bulley as inquest begins

Her phone, still connected to a work Teams call, was found on a bench near the water.

Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser from Inskip, was immediately deemed a “high risk” missing person, sparking a huge police search operation, with hundreds of local search volunteers and intense media and public interest.

Her distraught family called in private underwater search specialists amid a conspiratorial social media frenzy fuelling waves of sightseers and content creators visiting the scene.

The police handling of the inquiry was criticised after her body was found in the river around a mile farther downstream from the bench, on February 19. The media was also criticised.

Police had urged people not to speculate about the disappearance and maintained from early on there were no suspicious circumstances and that Ms Bulley may have gone into the water due to an “issue” with her springer spaniel dog, Willow.

Ms Bulley’s partner of 12 years Paul Ansell gave TV interviews appealing for help and her family and friends said they did not believe the police “theory” and urged people to continue searching.

As the days passed and speculation continued online, Lancashire Police revealed Ms Bulley had struggled with alcohol and perimenopause.

This prompted widespread criticism for disclosing her personal information, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak questioned about the police approach and the force facing investigation.

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.

Nicola's partner Paul Ansell
Nicola's partner Paul Ansell. Picture: Alamy
Ms Bulley's phone was found near this bench overlooking the river
Ms Bulley's phone was found near this bench overlooking the river. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Devastated family of missing dog walker who was swept away by river turns to Nicola Bulley diver Peter Faulding

Read More: Nicola Bulley coroner 'unimpressed with police' as they return to River Wyre but force slams 'misinformed speculation'

Part of the review will include inquiries made by the Information Commissioner’s Office over the force’s disclosure of Ms Bulley’s personal information.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct also looked at a welfare check on Nicola Bulley carried out by police 17 days before she went missing.Media watchdog Ofcom is also in contact with both ITV and Sky after criticism by Ms Bulley’s family.

The inquest, expected to last two days, will begin at the County Hall, Preston, before Dr James Adeley, Senior Coroner for Lancashire.

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