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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Alexander Butler

Lancashire police chief retires weeks after criticism over Nicola Bulley case

Lancashire Police

The head of the police force that oversaw the case of missing mother Nicola Bulley has announced his retirement just weeks after the investigation was criticised in a review.

Chief constable of Lancashire Police Chris Rowley said he would be stepping down at the end of March after a 31-year career.

It comes after the force was slammed for revealing Nicola Bulley’s health struggles in a review of the handling of her disappearance.

The College of Policing report found Lancashire Police’s disclosure of personal information about the missing mother’s struggles with alcohol and menopause was “avoidable and unnecessary”.

Mr Rowley played a crucial role in the search for missing mother-of-two Ms Bulley in January and February last year.

Chief constable of Lancashire Police Chris Rowley will step down from the role at the end of March
— (Lancashire Police)

The 45-year-old drowned in the the River Wyre while walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on 27 January 2023. Her body was found three weeks later, on 19 February after a huge search effort.

An inquest concluded her death was accidental, that she fell into the river on the day she disappeared and died almost immediately in the cold water. Ms Bulley’s family said they continue to grieve her loss and do not want to comment on the report.

A review, published in November, found that, in policing terms, the missing person’s investigation was well handled, but that the force had lost control of the public narrative at an early stage.

Senior officers failed to brief mainstream accredited reporters because trust between police and media had broken down – leading to an information vacuum and unchecked speculation, it said.

Lancashire Police was criticised for disclosing personal details of Nicola Bulley’s struggle with alcohol and menopause
— (PA Media)

The review found that Lancashire Police should have given non-reportable background briefings to accredited journalists to shape responsible reporting, without releasing personal information.

It concluded that the failure to do so “allowed speculation to run unchecked”, with the disclosure of Ms Bulley’s private information proving to be “the most controversial aspect of the investigation”.

“The decision to retire has been difficult, but I feel now is the right time to hand the force over to the next person who will no doubt work tirelessly with the Police and Crime Commissioner to continue to reduce crime and make Lancashire a safe place to live, work and visit,” Mr Rowley said.

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