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Daily Record
Daily Record
Pat Hurst & Ted Hennessey & Hannah Mackenzie Wood

Nicola Bulley drowned after accidentally falling into river, coroner rules

Nicola Bulley drowned after accidentally falling into cold water, a coroner has ruled.

The mum-of-two had just dropped off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school when she disappeared while walking her dog along the River Wyre in in St Michael’s, Lancashire, on January 27.

Speaking at an inquest into her death at County Hall in Preston, senior coroner for Lancashire Dr James Adeley expressed his condolences to the family, who were present throughout the hearing.

He recorded Nicola's death as accidental after she fell into the river and suffered “cold water shock”, adding that there was 'no evidence' to suggest it was suicide.

Dr Adeley said: “Excluding a couple of comments over the Christmas period when she was acting out of character and were treated as throw away comments, there was no indication of any intention to take her own life.

Nicola Bulley (PA)

“Her behaviour in the week before hear death was back to normal, she had restarted her HRT therapy, stopped drinking some time before, was making plans for play dates and spa days with several people, was becoming increasingly successful at her new career as a mortgage broker and behaved entirely normally during her parents visit of the night before and with Paul Ansell on the morning of her death.”

He added that the circumstances found after her death would also be 'extremely unusual' for suicide, especially as her springer spaniel Willow - who was described as like her 'third child' - was left alone on the riverbank.

Ms Bulley's phone was found on a nearby bench (PA)

Dr Adeley also pointed out that location where she died did not suggest she had intended to take her own life.

He said: “Nikki would also had to have had sufficient knowledge of cold water shock to realise as to how rapidly a death may occur as otherwise she may be spotted and saved; that she chose to do so at the main intersection of paths where she could be interrupted at any point would be unusual and to leave her car keys in her pocket with the car in the school playground where her children, to whom she was devoted, would see it would be cruel.

“For these and many other reasons I discount a conclusion of suicide as there is no evidence to support this conclusion.

“There was also no natural disease that contributed to Nikki’s death. The remaining conclusion is that of accidental death.”

Ms Bulley’s mobile phone, still connected to a work Teams call, was discovered on a bench overlooking the water. Her springer spaniel, Willow, was found running around nearby.

After extensive search efforts by police and specialist diving teams, Nicola's body was recovered from the river about a mile from the bench on February 19.

Presenting her final submissions earlier in the enquiry, Sophie Cartwright KC, the lawyer representing Ms Bulley’s family, said that the evidence clearly pointed to her going into the River Wyre accidentally and her drowning quickly in the cold water.

A police diving team at the River Wyre (PA)

Her tearful partner, Paul Ansell, and sister, Louise Cunningham, told the hearing they had concerns Ms Bulley’s struggle with the menopause and increase in alcohol consumption in the month before her death.

This resulted in a mental health nurse attending the family home on January 10 this year to speak to Ms Bulley.

However, they dismissed this as a “blip”, saying she was in good spirits, making plans for the future and looking forward to life when she dissappeared.

Ms Cunningham described her as “my big sister”, and said she was enjoying getting back into her career as a mortgage adviser while have a busy home life with her two daughters.

Nicola Bulley with partner Paul Ansell. (PA)

She added that her sister had struggled over the last Christmas period when her drinking increased, however this stopped in January and was soon “back to the normal Nikki”.

Ms Cunningham also said that Nicola was 'devoted' to treated her dog Willow and there was “no way” she would have intentionally left her unattended.

Mr Ansell, Ms Bulley’s partner of 12 years, said: “The blip over the Christmas period happened but in January she was back to herself, looking forward to the future and everything was on the up.

“She had a good day the day before (she went missing), came home full of beans, excited with work, with the meetings she had and plans for the year.”

When the coroner asked Mr Ansell whether Ms Bulley had any suicidal thoughts, he replied: “There were a couple of throwaway comments during the blip period but nothing that gave me any concern.”

Breaking down in tears, he added: “She was an incredible mum.”

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