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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Jamie Lopez & Kieren Williams

Nicola Bulley: 14 revelations shared at inquest from her state of mind to family theory

Today is the second day of the inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley after the 45-year-old mum vanished when out walking her family's dog.

Taking place at County Hall, Preston, the two-day hearing has helped to shed light on the events leading up to the death of the mortgage advisor in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire.

After dropping her kids off at school on January 27, she took the family dog Willow along the River Wyre - as she often did.

However, shortly after 9.18am the mum fell into the water and tragically died.

A desperate manhunt was launched which captured the attention of the nation and for weeks, police and emergency services searched for the missing mum until they finally found her body on February 19, in the water.

Yesterday, her cause of death was revealed, as were her final movements, while witnesses described hearing a scream.

Today, Nicola's husband Paul Ansell addressed the court, along with her sister Louise Cunningham, and her parents Ernest and Dot.

Her death has been recorded as accidental, Dr James Adeley, senior coroner for Lancashire said.

He added that she drowned after falling into cold water and there was "no evidence" it was suicide.

Below are 14 things we learned during day two of the inquest into Nicola.

Paul's last text to Nicola

Nicola Bulley and her dog Willow - who she had been walking at the time (PA)

Nicola had been out walking Willow, the family dog, as normal, that morning in January.

She had a meeting planed for 11am, Paul told the hearing today, and then “quite a lot of paperwork to get ready” for another meeting that afternoon.

So as it reached 10.30am he "started to feel a bit concerned."

It was around then, roughly an hour after Nicola is believed to have fallen into the water, that he text her asking "have you got lost?", LancashireLive reports.

Twenty minutes later, their children's school would ring him to say that her phone and Willow were found.

The coroner referenced Ring doorbell footage which shows Paul leaving the house at around this time.

Heartbroken husband's theory on what happened

Paul Ansell, whose last text to Ms Bulley asked if she had gotten lost (PA)

One tragic dimension of Nicola's story was how it became the focus of waves of online speculation over what had happened to the mum.

This even led to some ghouls travelling to St Michael's on Wyre and tormenting the village - leading to an arrest and some locals hiring private security.

But Paul explained what he thought had happened to Nicola, and how she ended up in the river.

It centred around their dog, Willow's harness.

Asked why it would be removed, Paul said: "We would always take the harness off before going through the gate. Because she’s a springer she’s very erratic and into the bushes so anything that is on her that could get caught we used to take it off."

Asked why the harness was in the grass and the phone on bench, he replied: "When she got back to the bench she is still listening to a conference call. She must have put the phone on the bench and then gone to put the harness back on Willow."

It was this Paul believed led to her falling into the water.

Making future plans with her sister

Ms Bulley and sister Louise Cunningham (Sky)

Louise Cunningham was one of the witnesses to speak in front of the hearing today.

Nicola's sister heartbreakingly recalled how the two sisters had childhood nicknames for each other - Nicola was Clacker and Louise was Tosh.

On the morning she disappeared, they were planning a spa day, using a giftcard Nicola's daughters had given her.

The sisters were due to go to Ribby Hall for a spa day on March 18 using a voucher Nicola’s daughters had bought her for Mother’s Day in 2022.

County Hall, Preston, where the inquest is being held (James Maloney/Lancs Live)

Sophie Cartwright KC, representing the family, said: “Would it be fair to say you were incredibly close sisters?” to which Louise said “yes”. The barrister continued: “Not just incredibly close but you come from a very loving family. You were brought up down south but mum and dad moved north to be near their girls. We talked about hobbies but is it fair to say Nikki’s hobby was family?” Louise responded: “Yes.”

Louise went on to explain she is wearing Nicola's dress today in the inquest. Their parents had given it to Nicola for Christmas but she didn’t like it so gave it to Louise.

According to Louise, Nicola worked for Love Homes in Garstand and had a "really successful work meeting" the day before she disappeared. She was "excited about her career", Louise added.

Sister's touching last message

As the sisters planned their future spa day, Louise text her sister for what she didn't realise would be the last time, before Nicola fell into the river and sadly died.

On the morning Nicola disappeared, Louise text her sister on WhatsApp about booking a spa day.

Louise booked the trip that morning, and then text her at 8.52am just over half an hour before Nicola is believed to have died.

She signed off the text with one of their touching childhood nicknames, ‘Tosher’.

Louise began crying during the inquest as she said: "Literally I was saying it was booked but she never picked up the message."

Reason sister believes it wasn't suicide

The area on the River Wyre where the mum's body was found (Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Nicola's sister Louise said she had "never, ever confided" in her about any suicidal thoughts or anything related.

But she said she didn't believe for one second that Nicola would leave the dog, Willow, unattended.

Asked by the coroner whether she would leave the dog by the field if she ever did consider ending her life, Louise replied: "Absolutely not. There is no way Nikki would leave Willow unattended.”

Nicola's mum describes evening before she disappeared

Dot Bulley was the final witness at the second day of the inquest and spoke with her husband Earnest.

Nicola's parents recalled what she had been like as a young child and a teenager.

They also spoke on the evening before she vanished - the last time they saw her.

Nicola Bulley’s mother said “everything was normal” the day before her daughter died.

Dot, who cried while giving evidence at the inquest, said she picked up Nicola’s daughters from school on January 26, and looked after them that evening whilst she was in a Zoom meeting.

She said: “We sorted the girls out and everything was normal.”

GP's verdict on Nicola's state of mind

Dr Rebecca Gray, from Great Eccleston Health Centre, arrives at County Hall, as the inquest enters the second and final day in Preston, Lancashire (James Maloney/Lancs Live)

Dr Rebecca Gray was the first witness to give evidence on the second and final day of the inquest.

She works at Great Eccleston Health Centre and was Nicola's GP.

She explained that Nicola had previously spoke about anxiety and been prescribed anti-depressants and beta-blockers.

In January 2022, the mum had started a new job and was finding it difficult, she said she felt more anxious and blood test results came back all normal.

Dr Gray said that there was no mention of any suicidal feelings or self-harm and "nothing" to suggest she was suicidal.

In February 2022, Nicola spoke struggling with sleep as a result of work stresses. Dr Gray said: “She described how her brain felt like it was overloaded”.

Mental health specialist's view of night police attended property

Police activity outside County Hall in Preston, Lancashire, on the first day of the inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley (PA)

A mental health clinician attended Nicola's home a matter of weeks before she eventually went missing, along with police and a paramedic.

Teresa Lewis Leevy is a mental health clinician who was involved with the Home Treatment Team and the Synergy vehicle which is the mental health emergency response vehicle.

During the visit, she gave her assessment of Nicola and said that she had been drinking, but did not think she was showing any signs of depression then.

When asked if Nicola appeared depressed, Ms Leevy said: “No, no, not that I could ascertain at the time.”

Nicola's struggles with alcohol

The mum-of-two tragically drowned in the river (PA)

During the search for Nicola, Lancashire Constabulary came under fire for revealing the mum had suffered from issues of alcoholism.

When giving evidence, husband Paul said she wasn't drinking when she had disappeared.

When sister Louise called the mental health team to her home, three weeks before she went missing, it was because the family was concerned with her increased alcohol use and the impression she “didn’t want to be here”.

According to Ms Leevy, Nicola was “appropriately dressed” and “appeared to be intoxicated”. Nicola told her she had lost weight as a result of her increased alcohol use.

Ms Leevy said that although Nicola was intoxicated she wasn’t slurring her words but she was repetitive in saying “she wasn’t sure how this had happened but wasn’t able to quantify that with an explanation”.

What happened on the January 10 call out


On January 10, Louise called the mental health team and "asked for some assistance with her sister".

Along with a police officer and paramedic, they arrived at the property at 7.30pm.

The conversation with Ms Leevy was “quite brief” and Nikki then said she was tired and wanted to go to bed.

Nicolawas advised to go and see the GP the following day but she said she couldn’t as she was sorting her mortgage out.

However, when Ms Leevy spoke to her partner Paul he said there “wasn’t an issue with the mortgage and it wasn’t something that was being done the following day”.

What was said about Nicola's menopause

Ms Bulley with her partner Paul Ansell (Facebook)
Husband Paul Ansell was one of Ms Bulley's family to give evidence today (Facebook)

The family had previously said that Nicola struggled with taking hormone replacement therapy.

When giving evidence, and asked about her mental health, sister Louise said: "Nikki did have a bit of a blip over the Christmas period [with her HRT] however come January she had started to get back to her normal self, she was back on the HRT and back to work and back to normal Nikki. Her drinking did increase."

Discussing January 10 when an ambulance was called, Louise said: “It was a bit of a wake-up call for her I think. She was fuming with me for calling the ambulance, she thought I had overreacted and maybe I did but she is my sister and I was concerned. She started to get back to normal after that.”

Louise last saw Nicola on Friday January 13, 2023, having stayed with her sister for a few days after the incident on January 10.

Family's verdict on what happened

This empty bench on the River Wyre where Ms Bulley's phone was found (Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Representing the family, barrister Sophie Cartwright KC, made submissions to the coroner that he should return the conclusion of accidental death.

It was the family's belief that the phone evidence, post mortem, expert evidence and eye-witness accounts all pointed to Nicola's death being an accident.

She said: "What occurred on the riverbank at probably some time shortly after 9.18am was a tragic accident for Nikki. It is clear from the evidence that at 9.18am Nikki increased the volume on [the Zoom call] and it appears that what happened after that must somehow be linked to the location of the dog harness found on the steep part of the slope.

“There has been much rumour, suspicion and speculation … the family are of the view that that has been allayed by the evidence. The family are comforted by the evidence that Nikki’s death would have been very soon after she entered the water.”

The barrister urged the coroner to find: “At approximately 9.30am Nicola Bulley, on the balance of probabilities, died in the river due to an accidental death."

She also urged the coroner to consider that the screams heard are not connected to Nicola's death and said “they do not have relevance to how Nikki came by her death".

Why the harness was found on bench


During his time giving evidence, husband Paul touched on the issue of the dog, Willow's harness.

It was found by the bench where Nicola's phone was.

This has been the subject of a number of vile conspiracy theories online.

Paul explained: "We would always take the harness off before going through the gate. Because she’s a springer she’s very erratic and into the bushes so anything that is on her that could get caught we used to take it off."

Asked why the harness was in the grass and the phone on bench, he replied: "When she got back to the bench she is still listening to a conference call. She must have put the phone on the bench and then gone to put the harness back on Willow.”

Family continued to receive 'negative targeted messages' for months

Terry Wilcox, centre, solicitor of the Bulley family (James Maloney/Lancs Live)

Nicola's family said they had continued to receive "negative targeted messages" as well as seeing "wildly inaccurate speculation" on a number of platforms months after her death.

Reading the statement on behalf of the family outside County Hall, Preston, Terry Wilcox, of Hudgell Solicitors, said: "The last few months have been extremely tough to process for our family.

"The emotional impact will stay long in our hearts and whilst we will never forget the loss of our Nikki, we will forever remember her as a brilliant mum, partner, daughter and sister that we all knew and loved so very much.

"The help and support we have received over these past few months has meant more than words can say. From family and friends to complete strangers across the country and the world, thank you.

"Nikki and Paul's girls have already taken great comfort in the deeply thoughtful gifts sent to them in goodwill and in time they will read the many cards that are filled with such kindness and love.

"Sadly, we feel the need to again raise and address the issue of social media. It's upsetting that we've continued to receive negative targeted messages and still wildly inaccurate speculation being shared on numerous platforms."

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