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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Martha McHardy

Body found in Nicola Bulley search is the missing dog walker, police confirm

PA Media

A body found by divers in the River Wyre is that of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley, police have confirmed.

The body was discovered on Sunday morning around a mile from where the 45-year-old mortgage adviser was last seen three weeks ago, walking her dog.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Lancashire Police assistant chief constable Peter Lawson confirmed Ms Bulley had been identified.

“Sadly, we are now able to confirm that yesterday we recovered Nicola Bulley from the River Wyre,” he said.

“Nicola’s family have been informed and are of course devastated. Our thoughts are with them at this time as well as with all her loved ones and the wider community.

Nicola Bulley, 45, vanished on the morning of Friday January 27 while walking her dog (PA Media)

“We recognise the huge impact that Nicola’s disappearance has had on her family and friends, but also on the people of St Michael’s,” he continued. “We would like to thank all of those who have helped during what has been a hugely complex and highly emotional investigation.

“Today’s development is not the outcome any of us would have wanted, but we hope that it can at least start to provide some answers for Nicola’s loved ones, who remain foremost in our thoughts.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables gave a statement on behalf of Ms Bulley’s family as they paid tribute to their loved one.

“We will never forget Nikki,” the family has said. “She was the centre of our world. She was the one who made our lives so special and nothing will cast a shadow over that.

“Our girls will get the support they need from the people who love them the most.”

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson (R) of Lancashire Police with Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables (L) speaking at a press conference outside Lancashire Police Headquarters (PA)

The family also criticised the press, claiming they had accused Ms Bulley’s partner of wrongdoing and alleging that family and friends were “misquoted and vilified”.

“This is absoutely appalling, they have to be held accountable,” the statement continued. “This cannot happen to another family.”

They criticised Sky News and ITV, alleging the broadcasters had reached out to them directly after the body was found on Sunday despite a plea for privacy.

(Press Association Images)

“It is shameful they have acted in this way,” the family continued. “Leave us alone now. Do the press and other media channels and so called professionals not know when to stop? These are our lives and our children’s lives.

“To those who genuinely helped and supported us, privately, we thank you. The community support in St Michael’s, friends, neighbours and strangers has been nothing short of comforting and heart-warming. Friends you know who you are. Thank you.

“Our hearts truly break for others who have missing loved ones. Keep that hope alive.

“Finally, Nikki, you are no longer a missing person, you have been found, we can let you rest now.

“We love you, always have and always will, we will take it from here.”

Specialist divers recovered the body near to where the dog walker vanished in Saint Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire after a three-week-long search.

Lancashire Police launched a new diving operation on Sunday and rushed to seal off a road after a tip-off was received from two walkers.

The appeal for Ms Bulley last for three weeks (Getty Images)

Ms Bulley’s family was informed about the discovery and the force has now confirmed that the body is that of the missing dog walker.

The mother vanished on 27 January after dropping off her two daughters, aged six and nine, at school. She was last seen walking her dog along the River Wyre. The dog was later found running free, without its harness or lead on, and had not been in the water.

Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found on a bench still connected to a work conference call and her dog’s harness was found under the bench.

Lancashire Police had been working on the hypothesis that Ms Bulley fell into the river.

Ms Bulley with her partner Paul Ansell (Nicola Bulley/Facebook)

The force came under fire last week after they revealed in a press conference the missing 45-year-old had “specific vulnerabilities” and struggled with alcohol and menopause.

They revealed three weeks into the search that Ms Bulley was graded as a “high-risk” missing person when she was reported missing on 27 January.

Ms Bulley’s body was eventually found around a mile from where she disappeared (Jason Roberts/PA Wire)

Shortly after police revealed Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol, her family released a statement condemning the “appalling” speculation around her private life, saying that they believed the public had become “distracted” from the search.

“Although we know that Nikki would not have wanted [personal details revealed], there are people out there speculating and threatening to sell stories about her. This is appalling and needs to stop,” her family said.

They also made a direct appeal to Ms Bulley, saying: “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.”

The investigation into Ms Bulley’s disappearance has also attracted widespread speculation from social media sleuths.

Lancashire Police detective superintendent Rebecca Smith said officers have been “inundated with false information, accusations and rumours”, with TikTokers playing private detectives near the scene of her disappearance.

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