[ad_1]

The ‘heartbroken’ family of Nicola Bulley may not find out for several agonising days whether the body found in the River Wyre yesterday is that of the missing mother-of-two. 

Paul Ansell, 44, and the couple’s two daughters, aged six and nine, have held out hope that the 45-year-old, who vanished three weeks ago, was still alive.

But two walkers spotted the body of a blonde woman tangled in reeds on Lancashire’s River Wyre before noon on Sunday. The family was said to be ‘in a lot of pain’ and ‘incredibly heartbroken’ last night.

Mr Ansell told Sky News he had ‘no words right now, just agony’ following the discovery.

Police sealed off the scene just down the river from where Ms Bulley’s phone was found after she took the family dog for a walk on January 27. 

The discovery so close to the village of St Michael’s on Wyre after weeks of extensive searching will leave questions for police over why it took so long.

Nicola Bulley's partner Paul Ansell (pictured together), 44, clung to hope she is still alive despite officers saying their main working hypothesis was that Ms Bulley is in the river

Nicola Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell (pictured together), 44, clung to hope she is still alive despite officers saying their main working hypothesis was that Ms Bulley is in the river

The moment a dog walker points out to a spot in the River Wyre, Lancashire, as police arrive on the scene

The moment a dog walker points out to a spot in the River Wyre, Lancashire, as police arrive on the scene

Officers and divers scoured the area where the body was found within the first 48 hours but it had not been looked at since private search expert Peter Faulding investigated it on February 6.

Efforts had instead focused further downstream, towards the sea.

Lancashire Constabulary said it was unable to confirm whether the body was that of missing Ms Bulley. Formal identification could take several days.

A spokesman added: ‘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.’

It is expected that Mr Ansell or another close relative will now be asked to help identify the body.

Hamish Brown, a retired Scotland Yard detective inspector, said: ‘The identification process isn’t pleasant for anyone. I’m afraid it’s just another line of unpleasant torture for the family, but something nevertheless that must be done.’

Mr Brown explained that it ‘depends on the condition of the body’ whether it can be identified ‘visually’. They will look for other things, like clothing, personal belongings and jewellery as well as examining DNA, he told GB News.

Local councillor Michael Vincent said: ‘I haven’t made contact with the family, but it would be inappropriate to comment further. The not knowing is causing them a lot of pain.’

Police officers and divers were pictured at the scene on Sunday afternoon

Police officers and divers were pictured at the scene on Sunday afternoon

Nicola Bulley, 45, vanished while walking her dog in St Michael's in Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27. Her family was described as 'incredibly heartbroken' after the discovery of a body today

Nicola Bulley, 45, vanished while walking her dog in St Michael’s in Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27. Her family was described as ‘incredibly heartbroken’ after the discovery of a body today

Sky News reported that the family was ‘incredibly heartbroken by this significant development’. Members of the BringNikkiHome Facebook page uploaded the police statement but disabled comments due to the sensitivity.

Ms Bulley’s parents Ernest, 73, and Dot, 72, were last seen leaving a poignant message of hope four days ago, near where she went missing.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the latest developments as ‘heart-breaking and distressing’.

Lancashire police and crime commissioner Andrew Snowden, who has been criticised for his silence over the search, also spoke out in support of the force and Ms Bulley’s family. He tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with Nicola’s family and friends at a difficult time. I’d like to thank the Lancs police officers and staff working on scene and across the force.’

Last night a bunch of daffodils was laid next to a small handful of snowdrops on the wooden bench where Nicola’s mobile phone was left abandoned.

A police helicopter hovered overhead as tearful locals held one another on the bridge overlooking the River Wyre in the heart of St Michael’s. Yellow ribbons, tied to the bridge with messages of hope, flapped in the cold wind.

Around a dozen vehicles remain at the scene where police located a body

Around a dozen vehicles remain at the scene where police located a body

A police officer walks along a road near to the scene where a body was found

A police officer walks along a road near to the scene where a body was found

A police diving team at the River Wyre near St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, on Sunday as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley, 45

A police diving team at the River Wyre near St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on Sunday as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley, 45

The 45-year-old mortgage adviser Nicola Bulley (pictured) vanished during a dog walk in St Michael's on Wyre

The 45-year-old mortgage adviser Nicola Bulley (pictured) vanished during a dog walk in St Michael’s on Wyre

Yellow ribbons and daffodils adorn the footbridge over the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre this evening following the discovery of a body

Yellow ribbons and daffodils adorn the footbridge over the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre this evening following the discovery of a body

The sun sets this evening over the bench near St.Michael on Wyre, Lancashire, where Nicola Bulley's phone was found after her disappearance

The sun sets this evening over the bench near St.Michael on Wyre, Lancashire, where Nicola Bulley’s phone was found after her disappearance

The bench has been a focal point for much of the investigation into Nicola Bulley's disappearance

The bench has been a focal point for much of the investigation into Nicola Bulley’s disappearance

Tributes were left by members of the public close to the spot where a body was found today

Tributes were left by members of the public close to the spot where a body was found today

At least three police cars and a van rushed to the scene, with other cars soon following

At least three police cars and a van rushed to the scene, with other cars soon following

Police erected a tent (left) at the scene shortly before they confirmed the discovery of a body

Police erected a tent (left) at the scene shortly before they confirmed the discovery of a body

Dog walker Nicola Harris, 62, said: ‘It’s sad, it’s absolutely horrendous, but I’m so glad if she’s been found so that her family can move on. It’s been such a complex case but at least it would mean the family can get some answers and have her back.’

Another tearful local added: ‘It is the news we have all been dreading, but maybe what we knew deep down. I just hope this discovery can bring the family some peace. We are all reeling as a community.’

The body was spotted by a man and woman going for a Sunday stroll along the river. The spot where it was found was 0.9 miles as the crow flies from the bench where Ms Bulley’s phone was found, or 1.1 miles following the bends of the river.

Police have in the past week become increasing irate at social media ‘detectives’ descending on quiet St Michael’s and spouting to online audiences their theories as to what happened to Ms Bulley.

The case has been beset with ‘appalling’ speculation, her family has said, with TikTok detectives rummaging through people’s gardens and making ‘cruel’ and baseless accusations against the mortgage adviser’s loved ones.

Before the discovery was confirmed, a witness said: ‘I drove down Rawcliffe Road for almost a mile. I noticed a man and a woman and two police officers on the embankment.

‘I pulled off at about 11.50am and I heard the man talking to police about something in the undergrowth.

‘Police cars were flying down the road with the blues and twos going. A police officer pulled up a few minutes later and got his drone out.

‘Five minutes later the police helicopter arrived. Officers then asked to me get out so I moved 200 yards down the road.

‘I could still clearly see the man pointing at the riverbank. Then more police cars raced down with the blues and twos going. They cleared the entire road.’

The man and woman were later seen sat on a wall by the scene looking ashen faced and vaping.

The 45-year-old mother-of-two was last seen on January 27 while walking her dog by the river in St Michael’s-on-Wyre after dropping her daughters – aged six and nine – at school.

A massive police presence descended on the village three weeks ago with dozens of officers, divers, search experts and high-tech equipment including drones.

Specialist searchers including Peter Faulding, who scoured the river using sonar equipment, also spent days in the area.

Mr Faulding took the unusual move of publicly stating he did not believe Ms Bulley was in the river, as it was so shallow she could simply have ‘stood up’ if she fell in.

After the news of Sunday’s discovery, Mr Faulding tweeted: ‘Our thoughts are with Nicola’s family and friends at this difficult time.’

Police officers were seen pointing towards the river from a vantage point next to a CSI van

Police officers were seen pointing towards the river from a vantage point next to a CSI van

Multiple police cars were pictured at the scene as the helicopter flew overhead

Multiple police cars were pictured at the scene as the helicopter flew overhead

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, the senior investigating officer in Ms Bulley's case, arrives at the scene of the search

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, the senior investigating officer in Ms Bulley’s case, arrives at the scene of the search

Lancashire Police issued the update on its Facebook page and requested Ms Bulley's family's privacy be respected

Lancashire Police issued the update on its Facebook page and requested Ms Bulley’s family’s privacy be respected

Her partner Paul Ansell, 44, has maintained hope she is still alive despite officers saying their main working hypothesis was that Ms Bulley is in the river.

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 at 9.10am taking her usual route with her springer spaniel Willow, alongside the River Wyre, shortly after dropping her girls, aged nine and six, off at school. 

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

Speaking about the new search, former Scotland Yard Detective Peter Bleksley told Sky News: ‘If ever there’s a sign of information that is received by the police… then seeing lots of resources deployed in a fairly short space of time is not uncommon.’

A police helicopter is reported to have circled overhead for around 25 minutes

A police helicopter is reported to have circled overhead for around 25 minutes

Diving and search specialists discuss the situation with one another from the side of the bank

Diving and search specialists discuss the situation with one another from the side of the bank

Four members of the police appeared to be involved in a search of the River Wyre on Sunday

Four members of the police appeared to be involved in a search of the River Wyre on Sunday

A Lancashire officer observes the ground near to the spot the two walkers pointed police to

A Lancashire officer observes the ground near to the spot the two walkers pointed police to

A police helicopter was pictured over St Michael's on Wyre for the first time in days

A police helicopter was pictured over St Michael’s on Wyre for the first time in days

Nicola Bulley, 45, from Inskip, Lancashire, was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27, when she was spotted walking her dog on a footpath by the River Wyre off Garstang Road in St Michael’s on Wrye

A police helicopter hovers over the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire today as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley

A police helicopter hovers over the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire today as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley

Underwater search expert Peter Faulding scans the River Wyre using sonar equipment earlier this month

Underwater search expert Peter Faulding scans the River Wyre using sonar equipment earlier this month

The last time Nicola Bulley was caught on CCTV she was accompanied by Willow on the morning of her disappearance

The last time Nicola Bulley was caught on CCTV she was accompanied by Willow on the morning of her disappearance

On February 3, Lancashire Police told the public of its main hypothesis that Ms Bulley had fallen into the River Wyre in a ’10-minute window’ between 9.10am and 9.20am on the day she disappeared. 

But multiple experts and Ms Bulley’s own family said they did not believe this to be true. 

This week they held a second press conference in which they referenced individual ‘vulnerabilities’ that meant she had immediately been classed as a ‘high-risk’ missing persons case.

But hours later they issued a shock statement detailing Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol, brought on by significant symptoms of being peri-menopausal and having stopped taking her HRT medication. 

Ms Bulley’s family said in a statement on Friday that they feared her decision to stop taking her hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs may have played a factor in her disappearance.

‘Due to the perimenopause Nikki suffered with significant side effects such as brain fog, restless sleep and was taking HRT to help but this was giving her intense headaches which caused Nikki to stop taking the HRT thinking that may have helped her but only ended up causing this crisis,’ the statement said.

They added: ‘Nikki is such a wonderful daughter, sister, partner and mother and is missed dearly – we all need you back in our lives.

‘Nikki, we hope you are reading this and know that we love you so much and your girls want a cuddle. We all need you home.’

Today’s news came after it was revealed overnight one of the UK’s top detectives was personally advising Lancashire Police on the case. 

The unnamed detective from the NCA, often referred to as Britain’s FBI, has worked on some of the UK’s most high-profile cases including killer and morgue monster David Fuller and the murder of PCSO Julia James, the organisation told MailOnline. 

The police have so far failed to find Ms Bulley, 45, after she vanished without a trace while walking her springer spaniel, named Willow, more than three weeks ago.

Lancashire Police have also received the aid of a forensic psychologist and dog behavioural expert.

It comes amid fierce criticism of police for releasing personal health details about Ms Bulley this week, including from Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt and PM Rishi Sunak.

Criticism of the force has been mounting since the 45-year-old’s disappearance on January 27.

Police officers have been combing the area for more than three weeks for the missing mother

Police officers have been combing the area for more than three weeks for the missing mother

Officers spent hours trawling the river, riverbanks and fields nearby

Officers spent hours trawling the river, riverbanks and fields nearby

Police search teams on the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire on February 5

Police search teams on the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire on February 5

Ms Bulley's phone was found on this bench in St Michael's on Wyre, with Willow's harness on the floor nearby

Ms Bulley’s phone was found on this bench in St Michael’s on Wyre, with Willow’s harness on the floor nearby 

Specialist Group International, led by Peter Faulding, search a stretch of the River Wyre where Nicola Pulley went missing at St Michael's on Wyre

Specialist Group International, led by Peter Faulding, search a stretch of the River Wyre where Nicola Pulley went missing at St Michael’s on Wyre

Lancashire Police have launched a probe into their investigation, which appears to have stalled, but have raised questions by not taking up offers from other forces such as the Metropolitan Police to conduct the review instead.

This week police publicly divulged information about Nicola Bulley’s battles with alcohol brought on by the menopause – a decision critics blasted as ‘sexist’.

Former police officers have also questioned why basic actions such as closing off the area where Ms Bulley’s phone and dog were discovered for forensic examination were not completed.

The force has confirmed a date has been set for the internal review, which will be conducted by their Head of Crime, Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables – but that date has not been made public.

On Friday Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley offered to conduct a review on behalf of the force, but Lancashire Police were criticised after deciding to do it themselves.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has also received a referral from the force regarding the contact officers had with Ms Bulley on January 10 – before she went missing.

Meanwhile PM Rishi Sunak, speaking about the release of personal details after Lancashire Police announced it will conduct an internal review, said he is ‘pleased police are looking at how that happened in the investigation’.

Timeline: Disappearance of Nicola Bulley 

January 27 

At 8.26am Ms Bulley left her home with her two daughters, aged six and nine, dropping them off at school. 

She then took her spaniel, Willow, for a walk along the path by the River Wyre at 8.43am, heading towards a gate and bench in the lower field. 

She was seen by a dog walker who knew her at around 8.50am, and their pets interacted briefly before they parted ways, according to the force. 

At 8.53am, Ms Bulley sent an email to her boss, followed by a message to her friends six minutes later, before logging on to a Microsoft Teams call at 9.01am. 

See also  Zoe Saldana shares children's faces for FIRST TIME on social media

She was seen by a second witness at 9.10am, the last known sighting. 

Her phone was back in the area of the bench at 9.20am before the Teams call ended 10 minutes later, with her mobile remaining logged on after the call. 

At 10.50am, Ms Bulley’s family and the school attended by her children were told about her disappearance. 

Lancashire Constabulary launched an investigation into Ms Bulley’s whereabouts on the same day and appealed for witnesses to contact them. 

January 28 

Lancashire Constabulary deployed drones, helicopters and police search dogs as part of the major missing person operation. 

They were assisted by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as Bowland Pennine mountain rescue team and the North West underwater search team. 

January 29 

Local residents held a meeting at the village hall to organise a search for Ms Bulley at 10.30am on Sunday, according to reports from The Mirror, and around 100 people joined in. 

Police urged volunteers to exercise caution, describing the river and its banks as ‘extremely dangerous’ and saying that activity in these areas presented ‘a genuine risk to the public’ 

January 30 

Superintendent Sally Riley from Lancashire Constabulary said police were ‘keeping a really open mind about what could have happened’, and that they were not treating Ms Bulley’s disappearance as suspicious. 

January 31 Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a potential witness, a man who had been walking a small white fluffy dog near the River Wyre at the time of Ms Bulley’s disappearance. 

Her family released a statement saying they had been ‘overwhelmed by the support’ in their community, and that her daughters were ‘desperate to have their mummy back home safe’.

February 2 

Lancashire Constabulary spoke with a second witness who they had identified with the help of the public using CCTV but they told police they did not have any further information to aid their inquiry. 

Officers from the North West Police Underwater and Marine support unit searched the area close to where Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found, while police divers scoured the River Wyre. Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s family appealed to the public for help tracing her. 

February 3 

Lancashire Police said it was working on the hypothesis that Ms Bulley may have fallen into the River Wyre. 

Ms Riley urged against speculation, but said it was ‘possible’ that an ‘issue’ with Ms Bulley’s dog may have led her to the water’s edge. 

February 4 

Lancashire Police announced it wanted to trace a ‘key witness’ who was seen pushing a pram in the area near where Ms Bulley went missing on the morning of her disappearance. 

February 5 

The woman described as a ‘key witness’ by police came forward. The force insisted she was ‘very much being treated as a witness’ as it warned against ‘totally unacceptable’ speculation and abuse on social media. 

Peter Faulding, leader of underwater search experts Specialist Group International (SGI), began searching the river after being called in by Ms Bulley’s family. 

February 6 

Ms Bulley’s friends said they hoped the help of a specialist underwater rescue team would give the family answers. 

Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s partner Mr Ansell, in a statement released through Lancashire Police, said: ‘It’s been 10 days now since Nicola went missing and I have two little girls who miss their mummy desperately and who need her back. 

‘This has been such a tough time for the girls especially but also for me and all of Nicola’s family and friends, as well as the wider community and I want to thank them for their love and support.’ 

February 10 

Police urged people to refrain from indulging in commentary and conspiracy theories about Ms Bulley’s disappearance as speculation increases online. 

February 15 

Police held a press conference over the case and say the mother-of-two was classed as a ‘high-risk’ missing person immediately after she was reported missing due to ‘vulnerabilities.’ 

They later disclosed Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and perimenopause. 

February 16 

In a statement released through Lancashire Police, Ms Bulley’s family said the focus had become ‘distracted from finding Nikki, and more about speculation and rumours into her private life’ and called for it to end. 

Lancashire Police referred itself to the police watchdog over contact the force had with Ms Bulley prior to her disappearance. 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman demanded an ‘explanation’ for the disclosure of Ms Bulley’s private information by the force. 

February 17 

Lancashire Police announced it was conducting an internal review into the handling of Ms Bulley’s disappearance and the Information Commissioner said he would ask the force questions about the disclosure. 

February 18 

Ms Braverman met with police leaders to discuss the handling of the investigation after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also expressed ‘concerns’ about the revelation. 

February 19 

Appearing on the morning broadcast round, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt described the police disclosure as ‘shocking’ while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who also wrote to the force over its handling of the case, repeated her concerns about the ‘unusual’ level of private information made public about Ms Bulley. 

A new search effort was launched less than a mile from where Ms Bulley vanished. 

Later on Sunday, Lancashire Police announced they had found a body in the River Wyre. 

[ad_2]

Source link