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Wales Online
Wales Online
Neil Shaw

Inquest hears Nicola Bulley's last text message, sent before she entered river

The inquest hearing evidence about the death of mum Nicola Bulley, who was found three weeks after going missing while walking her dog, has been read the last text messages from her phone. Mother-of-two Nicola drowned after entering cold river water – and there is no evidence anyone else was involved in her death, her inquest has heard.

Her mobile phone, still connected to a work Teams call, was found on a bench overlooking the water. Her body was found in the river about a mile from the bench on February 19.

The jury hearing evidence has now been read text messages from Nicola's phone. Her friend, Lucy, had been texting Nicola to arrange a play date between their two daughters.

Nicola had texted Lucy the night before she went missing but Lucy only saw the text on the Friday morning, the court heard.

Lucy replied at 8.13am. She told the court: "I said my daughter would love to come and play." At 8.59am Nicola replied confirming a time and included a smiley face emoji. Lucy and Nicola were also due to meet up the following day.

She said: “We were going to be meeting up, a group of mums, on the Saturday night for a few drinks.”

Nicola entered the water minutes later. Police analysis of Ms Bulley’s iPhone and Fitbit watch showed the phone’s last human generated interaction was at 9.18am and the watch stopped recording steps beyond 9.30am.

This suggested she entered the water between those two times, the hearing was told.

Two witnesses said they heard a scream coming from the area of the River Wyre where the 45-year-old was last seen on the day she disappeared. Drowning experts told the hearing entering into cold water can cause a victim to gasp and inhale water and drown within seconds.

Professor Michael Tipton, a world expert in drowning, said there would have been a “fairly rapid incapacitation” after Ms Bulley went into the river on the morning of January 27, which could have been as cold as 3C. It may have been just seconds before she began to lose consciousness, the hearing was told.

Prof Tipton said he agreed with Home Office pathologist Alison Armour, who conducted a post-mortem examination and concluded Ms Bulley drowned.

Ms Bulley vanished after dropping off her daughters, six and nine, at school, and taking her usual dog walk along the river in St Michael’s, Lancashire, on January 27.

Prof Tipton said: "We have heard people talk about roots to grab onto and points of safety but you would not be thinking about that. You are preoccupied with attempting to hold your breath and get back to the surface.

"There is no normal, logical cognition going on. You are absolutely distracted and entering such water is a painfully cold experience."

Someone of Nicola's build and weight would take in between one to two litres of water in that first breath underwater. The amount of water needed to cause drowning is around two litres and Prof Tipton concluded: "It would only take maybe one or two breaths to cross the lethal dose.”

Prof Tipton concluded her death "would have been almost instantaneous and certainly within 30 seconds" of her falling into the water. Moreover, the estimate of 10 seconds before a person falls unconscious is the "upper limit", and Prof Tipton said it would more likely have been one or two seconds.

The inquest was attended by Nicola's partner Paul Ansell as well as her parents, Dot and Ernest Bulley, and her sister Louise, who listened intently as several members of the public gave evidence. They were the last people to see Nikki alive before she disappeared.

The inquest continues today.

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