Home Sec says her 'thoughts remain with Nicola Bulley's family' after body found in search for missing mother-of-two

19 February 2023, 20:50 | Updated: 21 February 2023, 08:25

The Home Secretary has called news that a body has been discovered in the search for Nicola Bulley "heart-breaking and distressing" and said her thoughts remain with the family of the missing 45-year-old.
The Home Secretary has called news that a body has been discovered in the search for Nicola Bulley "heart-breaking and distressing" and said her thoughts remain with the family of the missing 45-year-old. Picture: Alamy / Social media

By Chris Samuel

The Home Secretary has called news that a body has been discovered in the search for Nicola Bulley "heart-breaking and distressing" and said her thoughts remain with the family of the missing 45-year-old.

Police announced the discovery of a body near the river near where Ms Bulley disappeared on Sunday morning, over three weeks after she vanished.

Officers did not confirm that it was definitely Ms Bulley 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.

Responding to an update this afternoon by Lancashire Police on Twitter, Ms Braverman wrote: "These are heart-breaking and distressing developments. My thoughts remain with Nicola's family at this extremely difficult time."

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A search expert recruited by Ms Bulley's family who oversaw a series of underwater searches also issued a message of support to her loved ones following the news.

Writing on social media, Peter Faulding, head of Specialist Group International (SGI) wrote on social media: “Our thoughts are with Nicola’s family and friends at this difficult time. #nicolabulley”

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

Police said in a statement on Sunday: "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.

"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.

The announcement came after officers launched a massive search for Ms Bulley.

Ms Bulley vanished in St Michael's on Wyre in Lancashire on the morning of January 27.
Ms Bulley vanished in St Michael's on Wyre in Lancashire on the morning of January 27. Picture: Social media

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, and roads were closed 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".

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 location on the River Wyre near St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, where police recovered a body during the search for Nicola Bulley.
The location on the River Wyre near St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, where police recovered a body during the search for Nicola Bulley. Picture: Alamy

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".

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.

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"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.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Friday: "Any time you're releasing personal information you need to be very, very cautious.

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"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."

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