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Jamie Lopez & Kieren Williams & Jordan Shepherd

Nicola Bulley inquest shares 14 revelations about her death

An inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley concluded earlier today that the mum died accidentally after falling into cold water. The 45-year-old sparked a police manhunt after vanishing while out walking the family dog.

The inquest held at County Hall, Preston, has helped to shed light on the events leading up to the death of the mortgage advisor in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire. Nicola had dropped her kids off at school on January 27 before disappearing while taking dog Willow along the River Wyre.

Emergency services launched a desperate search for the mum which resulted in her body being found on February 19. According to the Mirror, it was revealed yesterday that witnesses described hearing a scream around the time of the mum's death.

Dr James Adeley, senior coroner for Lancashire, also stated that her death has been recorded as accidental drowning. He added that there was "no evidence" it was suicide.

Paul's last text to Nicola

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

Husband Paul told the hearing that she had a meeting planned for 11am and told him she had quite a lot of paperwork to get ready” for another meeting that afternoon. After failing to re-appear he said that he "started to feel a bit concerned."

Around an hour after Nicola is believed to have fallen into the water, he text her "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. Ring doorbell footage shows Paul leaving the house 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)

The family have been victim to waves of online speculation over what happened to the mum. Some members of the public even travelled to St Michael's on Wyre to torment locals - forcing police to arrest one person and locals to hire private security.

Paul believes he has a theory on how Nicola ended up in the river. He told the inquest that Willow's harness could have played a part.

Asked why the harness was in the grass and the phone on the 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."

He has suggested that this led to her ending up in the river.

Making future plans with her sister

Ms Bulley and sister Louise Cunningham (SKY)

Louise Cunningham appeared at the hearing today to speak as a witness. Nicola's sister told how the two sisters called each other nicknames - Nicola was Clacker and Louise was Tosh.

She also told the hearing that on the day she disappeared, Nicola had been discussing a spa day, using a giftcard her daughters had given her. The pair were planning to go to Ribby Hall on March 18.

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

Louise broke down as she recounted her final messages with her sister as they planned the spa day. The sister had booked the trip in the morning, texting her conformation of the trip at around 8.52am.

She signed off the text with one of their touching childhood nicknames, ‘Tosher’. Through tears, she told the inquest: "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)

Louise said that Nicola had "never, ever confided" in her about having suicidal thoughts or anything related. She said that her sister would not have left the family pet Willow unattended.

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

Nicola's mum describes evening before she disappeared

Dot Bulley appeared as the final witness on the second day of the hearing. She recalled what she had been like as a teen and young child.

She and her husband Earnest spoke to Nicola the night before she vanished. Nicola Bulley’s mother said “everything was normal” the day before her daughter died.

Dot, who was emotional, said that she picked up Nicola's daughters from school on January 26 and looked after them while she was on a zoom call. 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 on the second day. She works at Great Eccleston Health Centre and was Nicola's GP.

She explained that Nicola had spoken previously of having anxiety and was prescribed anti-depressants and beta-blockers. The mum had started a new job in January 2022 and was finding it difficult.

Medics had run a blood test but the results came back normal. Dr Gray said that there was no mention of any suicidal feelings or self-harm and "nothing" to suggest she was suicidal.

Dr Gray said: “She described how her brain felt like it was overloaded”.

Mental health specialist's view of night police attended property

A few weeks prior to her disappearance, Nicola's home was visited by police, a paramedic, and a mental health professional. 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.

She gave an assessment of Nicola and said that she had been drinking but felt that at the time she was not displaying any symptoms of depression. When questioned about whether Nicola appeared depressed, Ms. Leevy responded, "No, no, not that I could ascertain at the time."

Nicola's struggles with alcohol

Lancashire Police came under fire for revealing that the mum was struggling with alcohol. But her husband Paul stated that she was not drinking when she disappeared.

Sister Louise had called the mental health team to the home because the family were concerned about her increasing use and impression she “didn’t want to be here”.

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

She added that Nicola was intoxicated but wasn't slurring her words, although she said that she kept repeating that “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". A police officer and paramedic arrived alongside the team at 7.30pm.

Ms Leevy said the conversation had been “quite brief” before Nicola decided she was tired and wanted to go to bed. She advised that Nicola attend her GP the following day.

Nicola said that she couldn't as she was sorting her mortgage out. However, husband Paul told Ms Leevy 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

Nicola has a history of difficulty taking hormone replacement therapy, according to the family.

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

While giving evidence Paul touched on the issue of Willow's harness which had been the subject of vile conspiracy theories online.

He 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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