Nicola Bulley latest: Partner says family in ‘agony’ as they await identification of body found in River Wyre
and live on Freeview channel 276
Nicola Bulley’s partner says he and her family are in “agony” as they await identification of a body found three weeks after the mum-of-two’s disappearance. The body was discovered by dog walkers in the River Wyre on Sunday (February 19) before being recovered from the water by Lancashire Police.
The force said formal identification had not yet been carried out and it was currently “unable to say” if it was Ms Bulley, who went missing as she walked her dog by the river on January 27. It added that the death was being treated as “unexplained” and that Ms Bulley’s family had been “made aware of developments”.
Speaking to Sky News, Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell said he had “no words right now, just agony”. He added “we’re all together, we have to be strong”.
Meanwhile, former Lancashire Police chief superintendent Bob Eastwood has defended the investigation into Ms Bulley’s disappearance following “an absolute onslaught” of criticism. Asked how it was possible a body could be found just a mile from where Ms Bulley was last seen despite an “exhaustive” river search spanning three weeks, he told BBC Breakfast that the river is fast flowing and tidal.
"The way the tide comes and goes, it is possible that the body could have flowed in and flowed out and has eventually been given up by the water", he said. "To jump in and automatically assume that the body was there the whole time is a step too far.”
The force also came under fire for disclosing that Ms Bulley had “specific vulnerabilities” as she had been suffering from alcohol issues triggered by struggles with the menopause. But Ms Bulley’s family later released a statement revealing they had decided to make the information public as people were threatening to “sell stories about her”.
Diving expert Peter Faulding, who led the underwater search for Ms Bulley, has broken his silence for the first time since the body was found. Mr Faulding had previously said that Ms Bulley was not in the water, despite police maintaining a “main working hypothesis” that she fell in the river.
“All I can say is when we searched she was not on the bottom of that river,” he told Mail Online. “We weren’t searching the reeds, our job was to search the water.”
Speaking about Ms Bulley’s vulnerabilities, Mr Faulding said he and his team were not passed on “this crucial information” which “would have changed our search strategy”.
What happened to Nicola Bulley?
Ms Bulley, who worked as a mortgage adviser, was last seen walking her springer spaniel Willow in the village of St Michael’s after dropping off her two daughters, aged six and nine, at school on January 27.
The 45-year-old’s dog was found shortly after, along with her phone, which was still connected to a work conference call, on a bench by a steep riverbank. Police previously said they believed Ms Bulley had gone into the river and that her disappearance was not suspicious.
The search for Ms Bulley attracted widespread media attention and saw who police described as “private detectives” from TikTok and YouTube descend on the scene in their droves. Speaking about speculation around the case, detective superintendent Rebecca Smith said she had “never seen anything like it” in 29 years of service.