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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Pat Hurst

Key evidence heard at Nicola Bulley inquest pointing to accidental death

PA Wire

The disappearance of Nicola Bulley prompted frenzied speculation and multiple conspiracy theories online.

During the huge search after she vanished, police urged against people fuelling damaging rumours making their job harder and attracting sightseers to the village where she disappeared.

Coroner Dr James Adeley said one purpose of her inquest was to “allay rumour and suspicion” and he would rely only on “reliable sources” and not explore the “theories advanced by those who contribute to social media fora”.

Here is the key evidence heard during the inquest pointing to accidental death and addressing some of the rumours and myths that have circulated since Nicola Bulley vanished.

– The ‘scream’

Two witnesses reported hearing a “scream” on the morning that Nicola Bulley vanished. But both witnesses gave different times for the event and both were reported to have happened later than the time digital evidence suggests Ms Bulley went into the water, between 9.18am and 9.30am.

Sophie Cartwright KC, representing the Bulley family, said: “We would submit, bearing in mind the timing of what was heard, you can dismiss this scream as irrelevant.”

Dr Adeley concluded that by the time the scream was heard, Ms Bulley was probably already dead.

– Pathology and toxicology

Tests after the post-mortem examination revealed Ms Bulley had not been drinking and only had the usual therapeutic levels of a prescription drug in her body.

A number of bruises were found on her body but none played a part in her death, according to Home Office pathologist Alison Armour.

She said water in the lungs showed Ms Bulley was alive when she entered the water and there was no evidence of any “third-party” involvement in her drowning.

CCTV footage, dashcam footage and doorbell footage was all traced and analysed by police – nothing turned up to suggest any suspicious involvement in Ms Bulley’s death.

– Cold water shock

Pc Matthew Thackray, a police diver, said there was a large slope near to where Ms Bulley is believed to have entered the water.

And on the day she vanished there was a “steady flow” in the river.

He said the temperature of the water was “almost freezing” and the cold water shock, the body’s natural response to being immersed in icy water, would make it difficult to swim properly.

Professor Michael Tipton, a world expert in drowning, said there would have been a “fairly rapid incapacitation” and it may have been a matter of seconds before she began to lose consciousness and drown.

– iPhone and Fitbit

Nicola Bulley’s Fitbit watch stopped recording steps beyond 9.30am on the day she disappeared, according to digital specialists at Lancashire Police. The Fitbit also recorded a “substantial” spike in the heart-rate reading on the device on that day, at 9.22am – a feature of cold water shock.

Police concluded she fell into the water between 9.18am and 9.30am and “possibly” at 9.22am.

Her iPhone, placed on a bench overlooking the water, had its last human interaction at 9.18am, when the volume was turned up, with Ms Bulley on a works Teams call at the time.

– Medical evidence

Police designated Ms Bulley as a “vulnerable” missing person and launched a search immediately after she vanished after a call with her partner Paul Ansell.

Dr Rebecca Gray, Ms Bulley’s GP, said she had never discussed self-harm or suicidal thought with her, although she had treated Ms Bulley for “low mood and anxiety”, starting in 2018 and she had HRT treatment for the menopause.

Coroner Dr James Adeley concluded there was an “absence of evidence” to suggest Ms Bulley was suicidal.

– Family

Both Mr Ansell and her sister Louise Cunningham said she was looking forward to the future at the time of her death and was “devoted” to her children and family.

Despite a “blip” when her drinking increased around Christmas last year, she was back to her normal self the following month.

The day before she vanished, Ms Bulley had had a positive work meeting about new business as a mortgage broker, her career finally taking off after looking after her daughters when they were younger. She was also making plans for a spa day, a play date for her youngest child and an evening out with other mothers from her children’s school.

– Willow the dog

Ms Bulley treated her eight-year-old springer spaniel as a “third child” and doted on her dog. She would never intentionally have left the dog unattended and alone on the riverbank, according to her family.

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