The failures of Lancashire Police: Do we really need to know about Nicola Bulley's menstrual cycle or drinking?

16 February 2023, 16:29 | Updated: 17 February 2023, 10:30

Stephen Rigley analyses the failures of the Nicola Bulley inquiry
Stephen Rigley analyses the failures of the Nicola Bulley inquiry. Picture: Global

By StephenRigley

When a woman goes missing do we really need to know about her menstrual cycle or her drinking habits?

And do we really need to have to sit through the sorry spectacle of a beleaguered force seemingly struggling to handle the most basic policing try to blame everyone for their failures?

Then three weeks into the inquiry hold a press conference in a shameless bid to try to justify their failures to get a grip on the case by blaming anyone they could thing of...the media, TikTok sleuths, literally anyone.

Worse still, in their attempt to avoid criticism they decided to reveal that, from the outset, Nicola had been classified as high risk because of ‘vulnerabilities’.

What were they? After dropping this bombshell, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith asked the assembled journalists to respect the family’s privacy.

In my 26 years in journalism, I have never seen a press conference like it.

Clumsy, intrusive and a flagrant breach of Nicola's privacy, this inevitably led to a follow up statement for 'clarification' which revealed her battles with alcohol, her ongoing struggle with menopause and that last month officers did a welfare check at her home.

So, was Nicola under the influence of alcohol when she went missing? Was she depressed? Surely this information would have been essential to police at the start of the inquiry, not necessarily now.

At the time of writing Nicola is still missing and her family are 'in pieces'. We all hope and pray she is found safe and well and can return to her family.

But Lancashire Police need to learn their lessons. And textbooks need to be re-written to ensure other forces do not make the same mistakes.

For lets face it, far from eliminating false rumours and speculation, the police handed amateur sleuths enough ammunition for countless conspiracy theories.

And in the process Nicola's medical history and right to privacy were trashed. All because it appears a force has failed to handle criticism for failing to find a missing person.

For some reason Detective Superintendent Smith chose to wear a black cocktail dress. She is a policewoman leading a major inquiry. I ask you would she really be wearing that dress to check forensics on a riverbank?

This is not an episode of Broadchurch or The Fall. This is real life.

What we need is a police force who can get Nicola back, not a shabby exercise in self-justification.